Facing Treatment of Kidney Disease with Hearing Disabilities

kidney disease and hearing loss

Facing Treatment of Kidney Disease with Hearing Disabilities

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) estimates that more than 30 million Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Chronic kidney disease is a long-term condition where the kidneys gradually lose their ability to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. Patients often need dialysis to treat the effects of the progressive disease.

There is evidence to suggest that there is a link between kidney disease and hearing loss. Although the exact nature of this link is not yet fully understood, one study in the Australasian Medical Journal found that 41.7% of CKD patients on hemodialysis had hearing loss. A percentage that is considerably higher than the normal population. The authors say, “that means every second or third CKD patient on dialysis experiences some degree of hearing impairment.”

Researchers believe the connection may have to do with the functional and structural similarities between the kidneys and ears. Doctors agree more research is needed but until studies looking at the correlation can be completed; they say patients should understand and be aware of the link between chronic kidney disease and hearing loss.

The most common shared risk factors for CKD and hearing loss include:

  1. Age (older patients are more at risk of these conditions)
  2. Diabetes (which can impact both the ears and the kidneys)
  3. Hypertension (which puts extra strain on the heart and kidneys)
  4. The use of certain medications with side effects known to impact the functionality of the ears and/or the kidneys.

Effective communication between patients with hearing difficulty and healthcare practitioners is crucial to ensure that the patient receives high-quality care and has a positive healthcare experience. When communication is not clear, deaf and hard-of-hearing patients are disproportionately impacted. These patients can face challenges with getting an accurate diagnosis and understanding their treatment options and safety.

For CKD patients with hearing loss, effective communication is especially important in dialysis centers. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals and patients in kidney dialysis centers required patients to wear masks for the safety and well-being of everyone. Communication is vital during these procedures and communication needs to be accessible to all. A traditional mask will block important nonverbal cues and other communication pathways.  The Communicator™ mask with a clear window, allows patients and healthcare professionals to efficiently communicate verbally or nonverbally before, during, and after procedures.

Patients with hearing impairment who require dialysis may face challenges in dialysis centers.

Those challenges include:

  1. Communication can be difficult for patients with hearing impairment, particularly in noisy environments like dialysis centers. Patients may have difficulty hearing instructions from healthcare practitioners and could miss important information.
  2. Many dialysis centers use audio announcements or display information on screens or monitors, which may not be accessible to patients with hearing impairment, giving them limited access to information.
  3. Dialysis treatments can last several hours and may require patients to sit in one place for an extended period. Patients with hearing impairment may feel isolated or excluded from social interactions with other patients or staff.
  4. There are also several safety concerns. Patients with hearing impairment may have difficulty hearing alarms or emergency announcements, which could compromise their safety in the event of an emergency.
  5. While some dialysis centers may offer assistive technology, such as hearing aids or amplified phones, not all patients may have access to or be able to afford these devices.

Dialysis centers should take steps to address these challenges and ensure that patients with hearing impairment receive the same level of care as other patients. This may include providing assistive technology, using visual communication tools, and ensuring training for staff members in communicating with patients who are deaf and hard of hearing. Additionally, having clear face masks, like The Communicator™, is a simple and cost-effective way to offer inclusive communication to all patients.

National Kidney Month gives Safe’N’Clear the opportunity to promote understanding and awareness of this issue and encourage individuals with kidney disease to seek the necessary screenings and interventions for hearing loss.

Raising awareness about the link between kidney disease and hearing loss is important for several reasons:

  1. Early Detection and Intervention: Raising awareness can encourage individuals to get their hearing tested and seek appropriate treatment, if necessary.
  2. Improved Quality of Life: Hearing loss can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, including their ability to communicate with loved ones and participate in social activities.
  3. Comprehensive Care: Managing multiple health issues can be challenging.
  4. Public Health Impact: Kidney disease affects millions of people worldwide and is a major public health concern. More research will help partitioners understand the increased prevalence of hearing loss in kidney disease patients.

Raising awareness about the link between kidney disease and hearing loss can have significant benefits for individuals with kidney disease, their families, and society. By getting their hearing checked regularly, CKD patients can detect hearing loss early and seek appropriate intervention, which can help prevent further damage and improve their quality of life. Patients should talk to their healthcare practitioners about the need for regular hearing screenings and seek appropriate intervention if hearing loss is detected.


Gottlieb, Z. (2010, October 1). Moderate kidney disease linked to hearing loss. Reuters. Retrieved March 1, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kidney-disease/moderate-kidney-disease-linked-to-hearing-loss-idUSTRE6903BP20101001 

Jamaldeen, J., Basheer, A., Sarma, A. C., & Kandasamy, R. (2015). Prevalence and patterns of hearing loss among chronic kidney disease patients undergoing hemodialysis. The Australasian medical journal8(2), 41–46. https://doi.org/10.4066/AMJ.2015.2258

Kidney disease: A surprising reason for hearing loss. Hearing Unlimited. (2019, March 5). Retrieved March 1, 2023, from https://www.hearingunlimited.net/blog/kidney-disease-a-surprising-reason-for-hearing-loss