Exercise Your Way To Better Hearing

Hearing is an integral and important part of our daily lives. We rely on our hearing to communicate with people, interact with our environment and appreciate our relationship with the world around us.

That’s why losing your ability to hear can have major repercussions. Apart from causing isolation, it can also have a significant impact on your mental and emotional health. Sadly, hearing loss is something many of us will face as we age.

Working up a sweat

When you are hearing normally, soundwaves funnelled through your ear canal cause your eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations stimulate three small bones in the inner ear into motion and their vibrations in turn reach the cochlea — a miniature shell shaped structured that is covered with tiny hairs along the surface. In addition, the cochlea also consists of strial capillaries that deliver essential oxygen to your auditory system.

The hairs turn the vibrations into electrical impulses that travel along the auditory nerve and with the help of the spiral ganglion these impulses reach your brain where they are interpreted and given meaning.

This delicate system requires a high level of energy, which in turn requires a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients.

The most common form of age-related hearing loss is associated with damage to the strial capillaries. Fortunately, there now seems to be an easy way to help preserve your hearing as you age.

All you have to do is work up a bit of a sweat.

Researchers separated mice into two groups and tracked their behaviour and physical activity over their lifetime. One group of mice were given an exercise wheel. The researchers observed that they ran for an average of 7.6 miles per day at 6 months of age and averaged 2.5 miles each day by their second birthday. These mice were compared against the second group of mice who did not have access to an exercise wheel and as a result lived far more sedentary lives.

The researchers found that the physically active mice experienced only a 5 per cent hearing loss in their lifetime while the inactive mice suffered a 20 per cent hearing loss on average. Upon closer inspection the researchers noted that the sedentary mice lost some of their hair cells and strial capillaries.

The researchers also added that exercise appeared to reduce these damaging effects, which can also contribute to hearing loss.

Translating their findings to humans — who have a similar inner-ear structure to mice — the researchers estimate that 70 per cent of hearing loss in people over 70 is related to the loss of these auditory structures.

The researchers concluded that aerobic exercise may hold the key to reducing the risk of hearing loss as you age.

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, professor and vice chair of research for the Institute on Ageing, said: “Exercise likely releases some growth factors yet to be discovered that maintain capillary density as compared to the control animals who were not exercising. Also, exercise may release other beneficial factors, but can also attenuate and blunt negative factors, such as inflammation.”

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Can Exercise Prevent Hearing Loss? Published online 13.01.17, fitness.mercola.com