You could put together an entire book on the benefits of exercise. Working out helps us to manage our weight, minimize our risk of cardiovascular disease, enhance our mood, elevate our energy, and promote better sleep, just to list a handful of 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 discovered.
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 independently 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 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 inactive 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 increased 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 as compared to a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.
For humans, this means age-related inflammation can harm the structures of the inner ear, resulting in age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be reduced and the structures of the inner ear—together with hearing—can be preserved.
Additional studies are ongoing, but researchers believe that regular exercise inhibits inflammation and produces growth factors that assist with blood flow and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s correct, then regular exercise may be one of the most useful ways to prevent hearing loss into old age.
Just about two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Determining the variables that result in hearing loss and the prevention of deterioration to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.
Stay tuned for additional research in 2017.