You could put together an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Physical exercise helps us to control our weight, decrease 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 better hearing to the list of the perks of exercise. Here’s what they discovered.
Researchers at the University of Florida started by arranging the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel while the other 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 compared the indicators of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to hold most markers of inflammation to about one half the levels of the sedentary group.
Why is this important? Researchers believe that age-associated inflammation harms the structures of the inner ear (strial capillaries and hair cells). In fact, the non-exercising mice with higher inflammation lost the structures of the inner ear at a far faster rate than the exercising group.
This caused a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice in comparison with a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.
For people, this means age-related inflammation can damage the structures of the inner ear, resulting in age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be lessened and the structures of the inner ear—along with hearing—can be conserved.
Additional studies are ongoing, but researchers believe that exercise prevents inflammation and yields growth factors that assist with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then physical exercise may be one of the top ways to counter hearing loss into old age.
About two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Identifying the factors that lead to hearing loss and the prevention of deterioration to the inner ear has the potential to help millions of individuals.
Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.