You could write an entire book on the benefits of exercising. Working out helps us to control our weight, minimize our risk of heart disease, improve 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 enhanced hearing to the list of the rewards of exercise. Here’s what they found.
Researchers at the University of Florida started by splitting the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel and 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 compared 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 important? 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 higher 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 humans, this means age-related inflammation can injure the structures of the inner ear, resulting in age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be lessened and the anatomy of the inner ear—along with hearing—can be preserved.
Further studies are underway, but experts believe that exercise inhibits inflammation and produces growth factors that help with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then physical fitness 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. Identifying the factors that result in hearing loss and the prevention of damage to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.
Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.