March for Kidneys!
No, I’m not asking you to get involved in a community march! But I would like you to be aware of the month of March from a medical perspective. It’s National Kidney Month. Further, March 14 has been set aside as World Kidney Day.
Our own National Kidney Foundation is planning for free kidney screenings throughout the month. They have also put together a “rate your risk” online quiz. And, you can do a live Twitter chat with their Chief Medical Officer on World Kidney Day.
Did you know that the kidneys filter 200 liters of blood a day, help regulate blood pressure and direct red blood cell production? Unfortunately, they are also prone to disease. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and family history are major factors in disease development.
In fact, according to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million Americans have kidney disease and MANY don’t even know it! That’s because there are no symptoms until the disease has progressed.1
Besides the functions of the kidneys mentioned above they also
- regulate the body’s salt, potassium and acid content.
- remove drugs from the body.
- balance the body’s fluids.
- release hormones that regulate blood pressure.
- produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones.
- control the production of red blood cells.
So, when they are not functioning properly, multiple body functions can suffer.
Now, you might be wondering why you are getting this information from an audiologist. Simply put, there is a correlation between chronic kidney disease (CDK) and hearing loss. I find it interesting that our two fist sized kidneys have a similar shape to our two ears. But the correlation is much higher than that.
There are 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. Also, some treatments for kidney ailments are ototoxic, meaning they cause hearing loss.2
Then there is Alport Syndrome. This is a disease that damages the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys. It can lead to kidney disease and kidney failure. It can also cause hearing loss and problems within the eyes.3
For all of these reasons, and likely more, a diagnosis of kidney disease for your patient should trigger red flags about potential hearing loss. In fact, 50% of patients with kidney disease suffer hearing loss.4
According to Dr. Kerry Willis, Chief Scientific Officer at the National Kidney Foundation. “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.”5
I like the way she thinks!
And this is one area where referrals can work both ways. You see, as I begin my Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation, I do so with a keen sense of the patient’s self-described health status. Even when the top concern is hearing loss, I may see red flags that could warrant referrals for medical consult.
Let’s work together for patients who may be in the throws of kidney disease. Let’s March for kidneys!