Recent research points to the fact that staying active is a great way to protect your hearing! It’s common knowledge that regular exercise has a host of benefits on the body, including better cardiovascular fitness, improved immune function, better bone density and less weight gain. It even helps to regulate diabetes. But a study of mice has revealed that lack of aerobic exercise can lead to the degeneration of vital hearing structures in the inner ear. Researchers found that the capillaries that take the necessary oxygen to the auditory system to help it hear did not function well in the sedentary mice.
The mice that exercised experienced only a five percent hearing loss over their lifespan, while the mice that were not permitted to exercise showed a 20 percent hearing loss. Scientists now believe that 70 percent of hearing loss in those over 70 years old is connected to the deterioration of these important structures. The study also revealed that age-related inflammation in the sedentary mice was more substantial than in the active mice.
The importance of cardiovascular health
One of the most important things we can do to keep the body functioning well as it ages is taking steps to maintain our cardiovascular health. The body needs a constant supply of oxygen to function at its best, and when we are sedentary, the heart is not challenged enough to keep oxygen-rich blood moving to all of the far-reaching areas that depend on a constant flow of fresh oxygen. The hearing structures of the inner ear are very oxygen-dependent too, and studies show that reduced oxygen to these areas can result in permanent hearing loss.
So, one of the keys to maintaining our hearing is actually keeping the heart strong and healthy enough to pump blood to all areas of the body. There is an overall decrease in total body water as we age, and a reduction in the amount of blood we have, meaning the heart needs to work even harder as we get older. Thus, it is even more important to keep our hearts in good shape with regular cardiovascular exercise. The overall theme here? Keep that blood pumping!
The brain-heart connection
The heart has an intimate and complex relationship with the brain, and good cardiovascular function is vital for keeping our brains, and our hearing, healthy. The brain depends on oxygen delivered from blood, and when it is provided with less oxygen because the heart becomes less efficient at pumping, its function is compromised. As we age, the speed of sound processing in our brains naturally slows, but this is much less noticeable with a consistent supply of fresh oxygen–which is why cardiovascular exercise is of utmost importance as we age. Our brains work hard to decipher speech, translating sound signals into information, and fast-tracking that information to the necessary area of the brain so it can be understood and responded to. Regular exercise keeps our brains healthy and makes sound processing easier, which in turn reduces stress and makes it easier to keep up with conversations.
What kind of exercise is best for our hearing?
It can be difficult to maintain an exercise routine, and one of the problems is that people often sets their sights too high. The most important thing about your exercise routine is that you enjoy it and are consistent in doing it — it is less important what kind of exercise you choose to do. You could walk, run, bike, swim, or join a dance class at the gym, as long as it is something you can comfortably make part of your daily routine, just like showering or checking your email. While you are exercising it is best if you can use large muscle movements for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day, five days a week. Take a nightly walk with a loved one or your dog after dinner, and you’ll have your 20 minutes of exercise done before you know it.
Stretching is great as well, because it helps to increase blood flow to your muscles and important structures of your body. Staying active is the key to healthy hearing and a happy life, so get those walking shoes out of the closet and treat yourself to some fresh air and exercise.
Visit Us at Exceptional Hearing Care
As a part of your health regimen, be sure to schedule an annual hearing test! It is recommended that people over the age of 50 take an annual hearing test to monitor their hearing health. Visit us at Exceptional Hearing Care for a comprehensive hearing test.