You could write an entire book on the health benefits of regular exercise. Exercise helps us to control our weight, minimize our risk of cardiovascular disease, enhance our mood, boost our energy, and promote better sleep, just to list a few 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 healthier hearing to the list of the benefits 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 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 non-exercising mice.
Researchers contrasted the indicators of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the group of 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 think that age-related 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 much faster rate than the exercising group.
This contributed to 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 harm the structures of the inner ear, resulting in age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be minimized and the structures of the inner ear—together with hearing—can be maintained.
Additional studies are ongoing, but researchers believe that regular exercise inhibits inflammation and produces growth factors that assist with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then regular exercise might be one of the best ways to counter hearing loss into old age.
Just about two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Pinpointing the variables that result in 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.