You could write an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Working out helps us to manage our weight, reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease, improve our mood, boost our energy, and promote better sleep, just to describe a few examples.
But what about our hearing? Can exercise additionally protect against age-related hearing loss?
According to a new study by the University of Florida, we can add improved hearing to the list of the rewards of exercise. Here’s what they found.
Researchers at the University of Florida began by splitting the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel while the second group did not. The researchers then calculated how far each of the mice ran independently on the wheel.
On average, the group of exercising mice ran 7.6 miles per day at 6 months (25 human years) and 2.5 miles per day at 24 months (60 human years). Researchers then compared this group of exercising mice with the control group of non-exercising mice.
Researchers compared the indicators of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to keep most indicators of inflammation to about one half the levels of the sedentary group.
Why is this important? Researchers believe that age-associated inflammation impairs the structures of the inner ear (strial capillaries and hair cells). In fact, the non-exercising mice with more extensive inflammation lost the structures of the inner ear at a far faster rate than the exercising group.
This led to a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice as compared to a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.
For people, this indicates that age-related inflammation can impair the anatomy of the inner ear, resulting in age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be minimized and the structures of the inner ear—along with hearing—can be preserved.
Further studies are underway, but researchers believe that exercise inhibits inflammation and produces growth factors that assist with blood flow and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then regular exercise might be one of the best ways to prevent hearing loss into old age.
Nearly two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Identifying the variables that lead to hearing loss and the prevention of damage to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.
Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.