You could write an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Working out helps us to manage our weight, reduce our risk of heart disease, improve our mood, elevate our energy, and promote better sleep, just to describe a few examples.
But what about our hearing? Can exercise additionally prevent age-related hearing loss?
According to a new study by the University of Florida, we can add improved hearing to the list of the perks of exercise. Here’s what they discovered.
Researchers at the University of Florida began by sorting 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 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 hold most markers of inflammation to about half the levels of the inactive group.
Why is this noteworthy? 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 much faster rate than the exercising group.
This produced a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice as compared to a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.
For people, this means that age-related inflammation can harm the anatomy of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be minimized and the anatomy of the inner ear—together with hearing—can be maintained.
Further studies are ongoing, but researchers believe that exercise inhibits inflammation and yields growth factors that assist with blood flow and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s correct, then exercise may be one of the best ways to prevent hearing loss into old age.
Just 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 injury to the inner ear has the potential to help millions of people.
Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.