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You could write an entire book on the benefits of regular exercise. Physical exercise helps us to control our weight, decrease our risk of heart disease, improve our mood, elevate our energy, and promote better sleep, just to name a handful of examples.

But what about our hearing? Can exercise also prevent age-related hearing loss?

According to a new study by the University of Florida, we can add improved hearing to the list of the benefits of exercise. Here’s what they discovered.

The Study

Researchers at the University of Florida started by separating the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel and the other group did not. The researchers then calculated how far each of the mice ran individually on the running 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 sedentary mice.

The Results

Researchers contrasted the indicators 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 believe that age-related 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 much faster rate than the exercising group.

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

The Implications

For humans, this means that age-related inflammation can damage the structures of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be minimized and the structures of the inner ear—in conjunction with hearing—can be conserved.

Further studies are ongoing, but experts believe that exercise prevents inflammation and produces growth factors that help with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s correct, then physical fitness may be one of the most useful ways to lessen hearing loss into old age.

About two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Determining the factors that result in hearing loss and the prevention of deterioration to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.

Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.

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