You could write an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Working out helps us to control our weight, minimize our risk of cardiovascular disease, improve our mood, boost our energy, and promote better sleep, just to identify a handful of examples.
But what about our hearing? Can exercise also 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 perks of exercise. Here’s what they found.
Researchers at the University of Florida began by dividing the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel and the other group did not. The researchers then measured 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 compared this group of exercising mice with the control group of sedentary mice.
Researchers compared the indicators 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 half the levels of the sedentary group.
Why is this significant? Researchers believe that age-related inflammation damages 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 led to a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice as compared to a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.
For humans, this means age-related inflammation can damage the structures of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be reduced and the structures of the inner ear—together with hearing—can be conserved.
Further studies are ongoing, but researchers believe that regular exercise prevents inflammation and yields growth factors that assist with blood flow and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then physical exercise may be one of the most useful ways to prevent hearing loss into old age.
Close to two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Determining the factors that result in hearing loss and the prevention of injury to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.
Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.