How Exercising Prevents Age-Related Hearing Loss

Older couple biking in the woods

You could put together an entire book on the benefits of exercising. Physical exercise helps us to manage our weight, reduce our risk of heart disease, enhance our mood, boost our energy, and promote better sleep, just to list a few examples.

But what about our hearing? Can exercise additionally protect against age-related hearing loss?

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

The Study

Researchers at the University of Florida started by sorting the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel while the second group did not. The researchers then calculated how far each of the mice ran independently 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 sedentary mice.

The Results

Researchers compared the indicators of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the group of sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to hold most markers of inflammation to about half the levels of the sedentary group.

Why is this significant? 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 more extensive inflammation lost the structures of the inner ear at a much 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.


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

Further studies are underway, but researchers believe that exercise suppresses inflammation and generates growth factors that assist with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s correct, then exercise might be one of the most useful ways to lessen hearing loss into old age.

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

Stay tuned for additional findings in 2017.

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