Does Lithotripsy Cause Hearing Loss

Does Lithotripsy Cause Hearing Loss?

Stones in the kidney and ureter can happen to anyone. They form when your urine has a higher-than-normal concentration of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. These abnormal levels of substances cannot be diluted by your body, and that is when stones get formed.

Does Lithotripsy Cause Hearing Loss?

Causes of kidney stones could be many things: drinking less water, eating high-oxalate food, and even consuming a lot of animal protein. Some of the symptoms of stone include:

  • Pain in the abdominal and pelvic portions of the body
  • Pain while urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Nausea and vomiting

What is lithotripsy?

Lithotripsy is a non-invasive medical procedure that is used to treat stones in the kidney, gallbladder, and ureter, etc. Lithotripsy uses shock waves or lasers to break down bigger kidney stones into smaller fragments that can get excreted through urination. Lithotripsy is of two types: extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and laser lithotripsy. The success rate of lithotripsy is quite high, varying from 70 percent to 90 percent. It is usually found to be successful in cases where the stones are located in the kidney or the upper urinary tract.

What happens in lithotripsy?

As you already know, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) uses shock waves to break down your kidney stones. The phrase “extracorporeal shock waves” refers to the fact that the source of the shock waves originates from the outside of the body. The procedure is non-invasive and hence requires no surgeries or piercings.

X-rays or ultrasounds are usually used to determine the location of the stone so that the shock waves can be exposed to the correct area of the body. The shock waves are generated by a machine called lithotripter and are focused by X-rays onto the kidney stone. It takes around two thousand shock waves to crush a standard-sized stone. The entire procedure might take up to an hour. The fragments of the stone then leave the body via urine.

Furthermore, during this exposure to shock waves, sometimes minor bleeding might take place due to renal or extra-renal damage.

Quelling misconceptions about hearing loss

There are a lot of misconceptions about lithotripsy. Since lithotripsy involves being subjected to sound waves, a lot of people think that lithotripsy could mean potential hearing loss. Fearing the ear machine costs, a lot of people back out from a procedure that is, in fact, quite painless and safe.

A number of renowned universities and research centers all around the world have done a number of experiments (both in children and adults) to see if lithotripsy causes any loss to the patient’s hearing abilities. The Department of Urology at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, carried out an experiment where they monitored 20 patients as they were exposed to a single round of lithotripsy. 

All the patients had undergone audiometry prior to the beginning of the procedure, and consequently, after the procedure. The audiovestibular functions of all the patients remained unaltered post lithotripsy. Thus, it was concluded that a well planned Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (EWSL) poses a negligible threat to the hearing of patients.

The reason behind the misconception

Lithotripsy involves exposure to sound waves that act as shock waves. These shock waves break the kidney stones in your kidney or gallbladder. With the involvement of sound waves, a lot of people think that it has the potential to hurt your ears too. But in reality, it does not. Cochlear damage can only happen if the intensity and duration of the sound waves are not monitored by a professional. In lithotripsy, everything is monitored and well-planned. Hence, there is nothing to worry about, at all!

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