Physical Activity Delays the Onset of Age-Related Hearing Loss

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Health and hearing are closely connected
Regular exercise provides a wealth of benefits: more energy, longer life expectancy,
stronger bones and muscles, and lower risk for obesity and diabetes, to name a few. A
recent study has added a new benefit to the list: delay 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 Study
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.
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.

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