A Possible Link Between Exercise and Reduced Risk for Hearing Loss

A Possible Link Between Exercise and Reduced Risk for Hearing Loss

Our Habits Matter 

So many of the basic foundations of a healthy lifestyle are commonly known. Though there may be a billion dollar industry making all kinds of claims otherwise, there are really no great secrets to health that supersede the importance of diet and exercise that everybody knows. Many of us choose unhealthy habits for all kinds of reasons, but very few people have unhealthy lifestyles solely out of ignorance.

What may surprise people however is how essential hearing loss is to your overall health. About 14% of the U.S. population suffers from some degree of hearing loss. It is impossible to say exactly how many people because so many people try to endure it without proper treatment, but reliable sources estimate that hearing loss affects between 35 and 45 million Americans. And sadly, less than 20% of these people pursue and keep up with appropriate treatment. Failure to treat hearing loss with the gravity that it merits can lead to all kinds of health problems beyond the obvious risks to one’s physical safety due to lack of awareness of one’s environment and the balance issues that hearing loss creates. It also leads to loneliness and depression, which lead to disorientation and cognitive decline. 

And just like the essentials of diet and exercise are no big secret, the most common causes that lead to hearing loss are also commonly known. A small percentage of hearing loss is due to genetic factors, congenital conditions, chronic ear infections or infectious diseases. But the majority of those who suffer from hearing loss do so due to poor hearing health habits. And though people may not know the specifics, it is a good rule of thumb that if a sound is uncomfortably loud, it is damaging to some degree. Hearing loss becomes so common with age that by the time we consider those aged 75 and older, more than half have hearing loss. Very few of these people had accidents with proximity to loud blasts era single, spontaneous events that ruined their hearing. The damage accrues, a little at a time, as poor habits become normalized. 

Exercise is Good For Your Hearing 

New research proves the link between regular exercise and healthy hearing. It may not be obvious, but the correspondence is clear. Regular exercise maintains your weight, improves your bone density, improves your cardiovascular system and even boosts your immune system. But now we know that it also maintains your hearing health. 

How? Well, it certainly is not the loud music blasting in your earbuds or aerobics class to jack up your adrenaline. In fact, almost 1/3 of aerobics instructors suffer from tinnitus. And the the average volume of an aerobics class is around 90dB, a volume that can cause harm in as little as two minutes of exposure. 

It is a matter of blood flow. Our inner ears have innumerable microscopic hairs inside them. When they are vibrated by sound waves, they tap against our ear drums. Our ear drums then send the signal to our brains to decode. It is these tiny hairs that are damaged by excessive noise. And when they die, the damage is permanent and irreversible. They do not grow back. 

The resilience of these tiny hairs is improved by the improved blood flow that exercise induces. Our overall cardiovascular system is strengthened and this in turn improves the many capillaries and nerves that the entire delicate mechanics of hearing depend on. Our bodies need oxygen and a body at rest fails to push the the oxygen through to all the distant tiny nooks that need it. Our hearts need to be strong to pump the blood everywhere it needs to get. 

And that master organ we each serve—our own brain—needs oxygen more than any of them. Remember that hearing does not begin and end in our ears. It is our brains that decode the signals that our ears send. Diminished blood flow and oxygen forces the brain to work that much harder to identify and organize the sounds we hear. When these necessities for its function remain diminished for any extended period, the nerves atrophy. This goes back to the unraveling overall health conditions outlined earlier: disorientation, balance, and even cognitive decline. 

Walking, running, bike riding, strength training, yoga: you know what is the right choice for you. And you know that you should be doing it. Today is the day to stop making excuses.