Physical Activity Delays the Onset of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Age-related hearing loss affects almost two-thirds of U.S. adults over the age of 70. It’s a result of natural changes that happen in your inner ear, middle ear, and neural pathways as you age. The loss is gradual and can lead to communication problems, feelings of isolation, and decreased physical function. But results from a recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience suggest that regular exercise can delay age-related hearing loss.
The researchers compared two groups of mice for 24 months. The experimental group regularly exercised by running on a wheel; the control group did not.
Mice in the exercise group had better hearing after 24 months than did the control group, and the physical findings supported this: For mice in the exercise group, key areas of the inner ear hadn’t broken down as much as the same areas had in the control group. However, for the exercise group, better hearing only occurred in the low and middle frequencies.
How did this happen? One important finding was that in the mice from the exercise group, a greater number of intact blood vessels were nourishing the cochlea — the part of your inner ear that converts sound into nerve impulses for your brain to interpret. In other words, physical activity ensured the inner ear continued to receive plenty of oxygen and nutrients.
The Good News
In this study, the mice were not forced to exercise — the mice in the exercise group only exercised if they felt like it. The authors speculated that forced running might have produced even better results. This is, indeed, good news: Taking control of age-related hearing loss is as simple as working basic aerobic exercise into your day.
Physical activity is just the beginning. Overall health is connected to hearing health in many ways, such as heart health and nutrition. Contact us to learn more about the link between whole-body health and hearing health. You can also learn more about hearing loss by reading Aging In Place’s Comprehensive Guide.
Han C, Ding D, Lopez MC, et al. Effects of long-term exercise on age-related hearing loss in mice. Journal of Neuroscience. 2016;36(44):11308–11319; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2493-16.2016. Accessed May 16, 2017. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Age-Related Hearing Loss. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss. Accessed May 16, 2017.