You could write an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Working out helps us to control our weight, decrease our risk of heart disease, enhance our mood, elevate our energy, and promote better sleep, just to list 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 began by dividing 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 measured how far each of the mice ran independently 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 less active mice.
Researchers compared the markers of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the group of sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to keep most markers of inflammation to about half the levels of the sedentary group.
Why is this noteworthy? Researchers think that age-associated inflammation damages 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 produced a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice compared with a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.
For humans, this indicates that age-related inflammation can injure the anatomy of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be lowered and the structures of the inner ear—in conjunction with hearing—can be preserved.
Additional studies are ongoing, but experts believe that exercise inhibits inflammation and yields growth factors that assist with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then exercise may be one of the top ways to lessen hearing loss into old age.
About two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Determining the factors that bring about hearing loss and the prevention of damage to the inner ear has the potential to help millions of people.
Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.