Older couple biking in the woods

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

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

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

The Study

Researchers at the University of Florida began by separating 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 measured how far each of the mice ran independently 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 compared the markers of inflammation in the group of exercising mice with the group of sedentary mice. The exercising group was able to keep most indicators of inflammation to about half the levels of the sedentary group.

Why is this important? Researchers think that age-associated inflammation impairs the structures of the inner ear (strial capillaries and hair cells). In fact, the non-exercising mice with increased inflammation lost the structures of the inner ear at a much faster rate than the exercising group.

This led 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, resulting in age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be reduced and the anatomy of the inner ear—together with hearing—can be preserved.

Further studies are ongoing, but researchers believe that exercise prevents inflammation and generates growth factors that help with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s correct, then regular exercise may 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 variables that result in hearing loss and the prevention of damage to the inner ear has the potential to help millions of people.

Stay tuned for additional research in 2017.