Exercise offers numerous health benefits that are well known about: boosts energy, supports a healthy immune system, enhances blood flow etc. But did you know that exercise can also reduce the risk of developing hearing loss? Studies show that exercise supports hearing health and contributes to preventing hearing loss – the third most common medical condition people live with today.
Link Between Exercise & Reduced Risk for Hearing Loss
Research has identified exercises as a modifiable lifestyle factor that can support hearing health.
This includes a 2016 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience where researchers looked at the impact of exercise on hearing health. They did this by studying two groups of mice: one group was mostly sedentary and the other group of mice exercised. Researchers found that over the course of their lifetime:
- Sedentary mice experienced 20% hearing loss
- Mice who exercised experienced only 5% hearing loss
Researchers noted additional significant findings including:
- Sedentary mice: lost hair cells in their inner ear. These sensory cells play a critical role in how sound is absorbed and processed. They send auditory information to the brain which further processes and analyzes sound.
- Mice who exercised: 95% maintained active healthy hearing. Also, the mice who exercised who did experience some hearing loss did so at a much slower rate than the sedentary mice.
These findings highlight a correlation between exercise and hearing loss. Mice who were sedentary were significantly more likely to experience hearing loss. Establishing exercise as a lifestyle factor that people can influence is significant. Hearing loss is a permanent medical condition that deteriorates one’s capacity to hear and process sound. This has multifaceted effects including straining communication, relationships, social life, work performance, and health. So the more that people can do to reduce the risk of hearing loss, it can enhance quality of life and wellness.
How Exercise Improves Hearing Health
Experts suggest that there are several ways exercise improves hearing health. Exercise supports the body’s cardiovascular system which is critical for other functions like hearing. The heart and blood vessels work to circulate blood throughout the body. This allows nutrients and oxygen to flow throughout the body which is essential for the health of various systems that sustain us. There are thousands of hair cells in the inner ear which play an essential role in the process of hearing. These sensory cells (in the cochlea) convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals which get carried to the brain. The brain is then able to further process these signals and assign meaning to them which is how we are able to understand what we hear. These cells require oxygen which they receive through a healthy circulation system – something that is supported with exercise.
Exercise boosts cardiovascular health in a few key ways. It helps lower blood pressure, reduce stress (and increased cortisol levels), reduces inflammation, and strengthens muscles. This supports the healthy flow of oxygen through the body, including the ears. Adequate blood and oxygen flow to the ears is necessary for the cells, bones, and nerves to perform their functions.
Tips to Integrate Exercise Into Daily Life
There are simple ways you can integrate more exercise into your daily life. Exercise does not have to look like going to the gym and using equipment, there are managemage and everyday ways you can increase physical activity. A few tips include the following:
- Take a daily walk. One of the easiest ways to exercise is to take a daily walk. Taking a walk, weather short or long, provides physical activity that supports your health. Being outdoors is also a great way to support your mental health and wellness.
- Find a physical hobby: this is a fun way to integrate more exercise into your life. Find a physical activity that you really enjoy doing – swimming, biking, dancing, golfing etc. And engage in that activity consistently.
- Daily stretching: another simple way to increase blood flow and physical activity is to practice a series of daily stretches. This can be as simple as stretching for 10-15 minutes after you wake up.
Integrating even the most mild forms of exercise can benefit you in numerous ways including protecting your hearing health.