You could write an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Exercise helps us to control our weight, minimize our risk of cardiovascular disease, improve our mood, boost 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 enhanced hearing to the list of the perks of exercise. Here’s what they found.
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 other group did not. The researchers then calculated 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 contrasted the indicators of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to keep most markers of inflammation to about one half the levels of the inactive group.
Why is this significant? Researchers believe that age-related inflammation damages 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 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 damage the anatomy of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be decreased and the structures of the inner ear—along with hearing—can be conserved.
Additional studies are underway, but experts believe that exercise suppresses inflammation and produces growth factors that assist with circulation 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.
Nearly 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 findings in 2017.