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You could put together an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Physical exercise helps us to control our weight, reduce our risk of heart disease, enhance our mood, elevate our energy, and promote better sleep, just to mention a handful of examples.

But what about our hearing? Can exercise also protect against 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 sorting the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel while 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 compared 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 sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to keep most markers of inflammation to about half the levels of the inactive group.

Why is this noteworthy? 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 higher inflammation lost the structures of the inner ear at a far faster rate than the exercising group.

This brought about a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice as compared to a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.

Implications

For people, this indicates that age-related inflammation can harm the structures of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be decreased and the anatomy of the inner ear—in conjunction with hearing—can be conserved.

Additional studies are underway, but experts believe that regular exercise prevents inflammation and generates growth factors that assist with blood flow and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s correct, then exercise may be one of the top ways to counter hearing loss into old age.

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

Stay tuned for additional research in 2017.

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