A Possible Link Between Exercise & Reduced Risk for Hearing Loss

Do you work out? It’s all too easy to find yourself all too busy, driving from errand to errand, work to home. We can go so many places these days without barely breaking a sweat – and this can have disastrous effects for our health.

Many of us may be surprised to find out that regular exercise—even low to moderate levels of exercise, such as taking a walk every evening—can reduce the risk of heart disease, can stave off some forms of depression, and help manage our weight. In additon, regular exercise can help us boost our mood, improves your energy, and also helps you get better sleep. Now –even more surprising, regular exercise has been linked to a positive impact on your hearing health.

Understanding Hearing Loss

We hear with our ears, but that sound must reach our brain for sounds to be identified and speech to be interpreted. We achieve this via tiny hair like cells, in the inner ear. These cells, called stereocilia, are the sole delivery system of audio information from the ears to the brain. These cells are incredibly fragile and can be damaged by a wide array of causes. When this occurs, the damage interrupts the delivery of certain sounds from the ears to the brain, leaving an individual with irreversible hearing loss. It often occurs slowly overtime, so you aren’t aware you’ve suffered a loss at all.

The Link Between Exercise & Hearing Loss

Many elements can damage the tiny stereocilia, causing permanent hearing damage including excessive noise, impact to the head, certain medications, environmental toxins, infection, or even chronic health conditions. Some of these conditions include high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes – all conditions which are kept under control via regular exercise and are exasperated by a sedentary lifestyle. While experts are still not in agreement of the exact cause of and effect connecting hearing loss and exercise there are several theories, which center on the health of stereocilia and the circulation which may be inhibited to the ear when a sedentary lifestyle is the base behavior.

Studies Connecting Hearing Loss and the Benefits of Regular Exercise

There have been several studies which have sought to back up these theories. This includes a 2016 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers conducted safe experiments on mice to determine the different hearing capabilities of mice who were primarily sedentary and those that exercised. They used mice as test subjects due to the surprising similarities between the hearing of mice and humans. The found that the hearing structures of mice who were sedentary suffered loss of stereocilia as well as strial capillaries in their cochlea, which are responsible for sensing sound waves and delivering oxygen to the larger hearing system. In addition, the researchers noted that the mice who did not exercise also had fewer spiral ganglion, which are the nerve cells responsible for sending the sound signals from the ear to the brain. Compared to mice who exercised, these sedentary mice experienced an average of 20% hearing loss over their lifetime.

However, researchers noted that the effects on hearing of the mice who were, experienced just 5% hearing loss. In other words, 95% of the mice had active hearing. All told, the mice who exercised lost working hair cells at a much slower rate than mice who did not exercise. This exercise appeared to diminish the effects of inflammation that accompanies aging mice, and the mice simply heard more clearly for longer periods of time. Following these results, the lead researchers of this study suggest that human exercising may also help to reduce potential damage to hearing structures.

Another study from The Johns Hopkins University examined the effects of exercise versus a more sedentary lifestyle of older adults. The study determined that even in seniors who completed low to moderate exercise activities for just three hours a week had less instances of hearing loss on average in comparison to those who rarely exercised!

What is Healthy Exercise?

It can be confusing to understand just how much exercise is needed to protect your hearing. The truth is, anything is better than nothing and that the more you do, the easier and more enjoyable regular exercise can become. To start, keep in mind that putting aside just 30 minutes a day three times a week or more to exercise can have great effects on your hearing health.

If you suspect you have a hearing loss, don’t put off a hearing test another day! Treat your hearing loss today and enjoy an active lifestyle for years to come!