You could write an entire book on the health benefits of regular exercise. Physical exercise helps us to control our weight, decrease our risk of heart disease, enhance our mood, elevate our energy, and promote better sleep, just to identify 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 enhanced hearing to the list of the rewards of exercise. Here’s what they found.
Researchers at the University of Florida started 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 individually on the running 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 contrasted this group of exercising mice with the control group of less active mice.
Researchers contrasted the markers of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the group of sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to hold most indicators of inflammation to about one half the levels of the sedentary group.
Why is this significant? Researchers think 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 much faster rate than the exercising group.
This produced a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice compared with a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.
For humans, this means that age-related inflammation can impair the anatomy of the inner ear, resulting in age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be decreased and the structures of the inner ear—along with hearing—can be maintained.
Further studies are ongoing, but experts believe that exercise prevents inflammation and produces growth factors that assist with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then regular exercise might be one of the top ways to prevent hearing loss into old age.
About two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Determining the variables that bring about hearing loss and the prevention of damage to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.
Stay tuned for additional research in 2017.