Folsom Hearing Aid Center - Folsom and Placerville, CA

Older couple biking in the woods

You could write an entire book on the health benefits of regular exercise. Working out helps us to manage our weight, minimize our risk of cardiovascular disease, improve our mood, boost our energy, and promote better sleep, just to name 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 better hearing to the list of the perks of exercise. Here’s what they discovered.

The Study

Researchers at the University of Florida began by splitting 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 non-exercising mice.

The Results

Researchers compared the indicators of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the group of sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to keep most indicators of inflammation to about one 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 higher inflammation lost the structures of the inner ear at a far faster rate than the exercising group.

This contributed to a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice as compared to a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.

Implications

For people, 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 limited and the anatomy of the inner ear—in conjunction with hearing—can be preserved.

Further 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 correct, then physical fitness might be one of the top 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 lead to hearing loss and the prevention of injury to the inner ear has the potential to help millions of individuals.

Stay tuned for additional research in 2017.