Study suggests reduced kidney function is connected to hearing loss

A new study from UW-Madison suggests reduced kidney function is connected to hearing loss later in life.

Using data from a separate long-term study on hearing loss in Wisconsin, researchers at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health looked at a marker known as cystatin C — a protein that can be used to estimate how the kidney is working.

By measuring levels of this protein, they found that some age-related hearing impairment may occur as a result of kidneys not functioning normally.

The results of the study were published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Carla Schubert, a specialist in visual sciences at UW-Madison, was the lead researcher for this study.

“This is a very innovative study as it spans 20 years, and we are fortunate to work with the people of Beaver Dam; we could not do our work without their support,” Schubert said. “We can’t say there is a direct correlation, but we did see an increased likelihood that reduced kidney function could also affect your hearing.”

Data for the study came from the population-based Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study performed in Beaver Dam.

The EHLS started baseline exams in 1993, and participants have been reexamined about every five years. The most recent exams were performed between 2014 and 2016.

This study included 863 participants in total; all were between the ages of 48 and 86 and were without hearing loss at the baseline.

According to a release, this is the first hearing study from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health using data from the Beaver Dam study.

The principal investigator of the study was Karen Cruickshanks, a UW-Madison professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and population health sciences. Other authors include Barbara and Ronald Klein, UW-Madison associate professors in ophthalmology and visual sciences.

–By Alex Moe