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I Hear Ya –

I am lucky enough to personally know several nurses. At one point or another, each has mentioned the connection between the kidneys and the ears. I disregarded that until I realized how often I’d heard it. But I didn’t understand it. One is on your head and the other above your bladder. Hmmm. Time to find out how they’re connected.

The National Library of Medicine helped in starting my research:

“Chronic kidney disease is a major public health challenge, globally. Inadequate excretion of metabolic waste products by the kidneys results in circulation of these toxic materials in the body. This can cause damage to tissues and organ systems including the auditory system which can lead to hearing loss.”

Okay, I can accept that providing we define metabolic waste products. to the rescue:

“Metabolic waste in the body refers to substances created during the metabolism of food that is unusable by the body. Metabolic waste is transported from cells by the bloodstream to be excreted by organs in the body.”

Oh, and just in case you forgot what metabolism is [from again]:

Metabolism is a chemical process that converts energy stored in food to energy an organism uses for bodily functions and maintenance. The energy in food is converted during digestion. Metabolism controls the structure and function of the body. It’s a multi-step process.

Metabolism = Food is Consumed => Catabolism & Anabolism => Energy & Metabolic Wastes

  • Catabolism: Breakdown of food into specific nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats individual cells can use for energy
  • Anabolism: at the cellular level, individual nutrients are transformed into substances the body needs for building and maintaining bodily tissues”

As usual, I wanted more information so I went to a site connected with hearing, Hearing Unlimited:

“If you asked a medical professional about the kidneys and the ears, they would tell you that ‘the kidneys share physiologic, ultrastructural and antigenic similarities with the stria vascularis of the cochlea.’ Or, in plain English: a specific part of our ears shares functional and structural characteristics with our kidneys.

It almost sounds unreal – how could the ears share similarities with the kidneys? But research has confirmed that physiological mechanisms of fluid and electrolyte balance are present in both organs. This matters because it means that when a health issue affects the functionality of one (i.e. the kidneys or the ears), it’s likely to affect the other. So while hearing loss doesn’t cause CKD – or vice versa – patients with certain types of hearing loss are likely to experience problems with their kidneys (and vice-versa).”

This sounds like something out of science fiction. But it also makes sense. I wanted to be certain I understood what I was reading. Spectrum Hearing made it abundantly clear:

“A child who has one developmental problem may have other problems that arose at the same time:  Kidney problems and hearing problems, for example, are often found together because both kidneys and the inner ears develop at the same time.” Dr. C. George Boeree

In utero is one example of a possible connection between ears and kidneys. Individuals with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) also presents [sic] with a higher likelihood of hearing loss.

Tissues of the kidney and the inner ear are similar and share a common metabolic function, therefore problems that affect kidney function can also damage the inner ear.  High blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of CKD can increase your risk of developing kidney problems and hearing problems.  High blood pressure can cause CKD and CKD can cause high blood pressure.  Diabetes can cause damage to many organs in your body including the kidneys, heart, blood vessels and the inner ear.”

I get it now, but wondered if I could find more information about hearing problems causing chronic kidney disease. Let’s go back to Hearing Unlimited for a moment:

“So while hearing loss doesn’t cause CKD – or vice versa – patients with certain types of hearing loss are likely to experience problems with their kidneys (and vice versa).”

MedlinePlus gives us an example one of the diseases involved:

“Alport syndrome is a genetic condition characterized by kidney disease, hearing loss, and eye abnormalities.

People with Alport syndrome experience progressive loss of kidney function. Almost all affected individuals have blood in their urine (hematuria), which indicates abnormal functioning of the kidneys. Many people with Alport syndrome also develop high levels of protein in their urine (proteinuria). The kidneys gradually lose their ability to efficiently remove waste products from the body, resulting in end-stage kidney disease (ESKD).

In late childhood or early adolescence, many people with Alport syndrome develop sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by abnormalities of the inner ear. Affected individuals may also have misshapen lenses in their eyes (anterior lenticonus) and abnormal coloration of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. These eye abnormalities seldom lead to vision loss.”

Sensorineural? What’s that mean? The Mayo Clinic explains:

“There are three types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive, which involves the outer or middle ear.
  • Sensorineural, which involves the inner ear.
  • Mixed, which is a mix of the two.”

Let’s check Hearing Tracker to see what they have to say about hearing loss and kidney disease:

“People with CKD may also be at risk of developing other health complications, including hearing loss. A growing body of research points to a connection between CKD and hearing loss, highlighting the possible harmful effects of CKD on the hearing system. In fact, the National Kidney Foundation estimates that that 54% of people with moderate kidney disease have some kind of hearing loss.”

I never knew. Did you? So, how about getting your hearing checked?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!