Older couple biking in the woods

You could put together an entire book on the benefits of exercise. Working out helps us to manage our weight, minimize our risk of cardiovascular disease, enhance our mood, boost our energy, and promote better sleep, just to identify a few examples.

But what about our hearing? Can exercise additionally prevent age-related hearing loss?

According to a new study by the University of Florida, we can add better hearing to the list of the rewards of exercise. Here’s what they discovered.

The Study

Researchers at the University of Florida began by arranging the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel and the other group did not. The researchers then calculated how far each of the mice ran individually 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 contrasted this group of exercising mice with the control group of non-exercising mice.

The Results

Researchers compared the markers 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 significant? Researchers think that age-associated inflammation harms 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 far faster rate than the exercising group.

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

Implications

For people, this means age-related inflammation can injure the structures of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be lessened and the anatomy of the inner ear—along with hearing—can be conserved.

Further studies are ongoing, but researchers believe that regular exercise inhibits inflammation and generates growth factors that assist with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s correct, then physical fitness might be one of the most useful ways to counter hearing loss into old age.

Nearly two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Pinpointing the variables that lead to hearing loss and the prevention of injury to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.

Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.

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