Older individuals with moderate CKD (chronic kidney disease) are more likely to suffer from hearing difficulties compared to healthy people of the same age, researchers have revealed in an article that appears in the American Journal of Kidney Disease.

Researchers from the Universities of Sydney, Melbourne and Macquarie, all in Australia, examined the medical records of 2,564 people aged at least 50 years, of whom 513 had moderate chronic kidney disease (CKD). 54.4% of all the patients with CKD had some degree of hearing loss, versus 28.3% of the other people who had no kidney problems. Severe hearing loss affected almost 30% of the CKD patients, compared to just 10% of the others.

The researchers made adjustments for risk factors that may affect hearing, such as age; sex; noise exposure; education; diabetes, hypertension, and stroke histories; and smoking.

Author Professor David Harris, Associate Dean of Sydney Medical School-Westmead at the University of Sydney, said:

Hearing loss is commonly linked to syndromal kidney disease. However, this study suggests a strong tie to CKD in general. The link can be explained by structural and functional similarities between tissues in the inner ear and in the kidney. Additionally, toxins that accumulate in kidney failure can damage nerves, including those in the inner ear. Another reason for this connection is that kidney disease and hearing loss share common risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure and advanced age.

Dr. Kerry Willis, Senior Vice President of Scientific Activities at the National Kidney Foundation, said:

These findings could lead to a modification of the usual care of people with CKD. Earlier clinical hearing assessments and fitting of hearing aids in CKD patients can improve quality of life and lead to better management of underlying conditions which could, in turn, potentially preserve hearing function.

Also known as chronic kidney failure or chronic renal failure, chronic kidney disease is a slow and progressive loss of kidney function. Over a period of several years the condition worsens until eventually there is permanent kidney failure. CKD is much more common than most people realize – it often goes undetected and undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced. Many people don’t know they have CKD until their kidney function is down to 25% of normal.

As the condition progresses levels of waste and fluids in the body rise, sometimes dangerously. Treatment aims to stop or at least slow down the progression of CKD, which is achieved by controlling its underlying cause.

If CKD ends in end-stage kidney disease, the patient will only survive with dialysis (artificial filtering) or a kidney transplant.

Approximately 1 to 4 in every 1,000 individuals in the UK are affected by CKD – the average age of a CKD patient in the UK is 77.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, USA, 26 million Americans have CKD.

The main causes of CKD are diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

“The Association Between Reduced GFR and Hearing Loss: A Cross-sectional Population-Based Study”
Eswari Vilayur, MBBS, Bamini Gopinath, PhD, David C. Harris, MD, PhD, George Burlutsky, MApplStat, Catherine M. McMahon, PhD, Paul Mitchell, MD, PhD
American Journal of Kidney Disease Volume 56, Issue 4, Pages 661-669 (October 2010)

Written by Christian Nordqvist