Can Regular Exercise Help Reduce Hearing Loss Risk?

Can Regular Exercise Help Reduce Hearing Loss Risk? 

In Hearing Health by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A

Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

Many people enjoy exercise for the boost in the mood it provides, just as much as how it keeps you in shape. We all aren’t out there exercising to have rippling muscles and a six-pack of abs. As we age exercise a couple of times a week —even low to moderate levels of exercise, such as taking a walk every evening—can make a big difference in preventing cardiovascular disease, help prevent depressive symptoms and can aid in maintaining an appropriate weight which will support your overall health, and help you sleep deeper at night. Now research shows that one more benefit of exercise is its added benefit for supporting your hearing health for years to come

Age-Related Hearing Loss

Technically called presbycusis, age-related hearing loss occurs in one in three over the age of 65 and half of all people, 75 years and older. Presbycusis occurs due to changes in the ear as we age and also changes in blood flow. The blood itself changes slightly with age. Normal aging causes a reduction in total body water. As part of this, there is less fluid in the bloodstream, so blood volume decreases. In addition, it’s common for Plaque to build up inside the walls of your arteries, over time, hardening and narrowing them and limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs throughout your body, including the ears.

 

It’s important to understand that the ears are a delivery system of sound to the brain. It achieves this through a tiny and complex system that ultimately ends with tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia which transform audio waves into electrical impulses which are received by the brain. The stereocilia rely on a healthy supply of blood to the brain and when they don’t receive enough, they are more prone to breakage and death -leaving many with permanent hearing loss

 

The Link Between Exercise & Hearing Loss

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience explored the benefits of exercise on hearing by conducting safe experiments on mice. When comparing mice who were active versus those who are sedentary, they found that the hearing structures of mice who were sedentary were negatively affected. They found that the stereocilia in the cochlea were damaged and that the cochlear system in these test subjects was unable to circulate the oxygen required to support the larger auditory system. This contributed to permanent sensorineural hearing loss. Compared to mice who exercised, these sedentary mice experienced an average of 20% hearing loss over their lifetime.

Meanwhile, the active mice experienced just 5% hearing loss. In other words, 95% of the active mice had a healthy hearing. Because the hearing systems of mice and humans are rather similar, the lead researchers suggested that similarly, when humans exercised, the risk of damage to hearing structures is affected.

Johns Hopkins Study on Exercise on Hearing

Another study from Johns Hopkins University explored the benefits of hearing for seniors who exercise. They found that seniors who completed low to moderate exercise activities for just three hours a week scored far better on hearing tests than those seniors who did not exercise at all. This means putting aside just 30 minutes a day, a couple of times a week, to complete some cardiovascular exercise. The researchers believe this may be due to how exercising promotes blood circulation throughout your body and invigorates oxygen circulation simultaneously. This results in reduced inflammation which may pose a risk to the fragile stereocilia, protecting them from permanent hearing damage.

Treating Hearing Loss

Have you been thinking of starting an exercise routine? Well, it’s never too late to start staying active and getting out. Aside from all the emotional and physical benefits of regular exercise, it also helps you get out more, try new things, and can support healthy hearing. If you do have hearing loss, we are here to help. Schedule an appointment with us today. We can help you find the best hearing solution for you to keep you active and healthy for years to come.