The top three most common medical conditions in the United States are heart disease, diabetes, and hearing loss
. Most Americans know that eating a well-balanced diet of whole foods and nutrients, and exercising, brings many health benefits. This is especially the case with conditions such as heart disease and diabetes – but did you know that exercise could also help improve your hearing?
At the University of Florida, researchers have found that exercise may help age-related hearing loss
in mice. In this study, mice who were sendentary were found to lose structures important to their auditory system (hair cells, strial capillaries) at a much higher rate than mice that exercised.
Researchers separated the mice into two groups, one that had a running wheel and one that did not. The length of the study used the proportion of a mouse’s life to a human life – a 6-month-old mouse is equivalent to 25 human years; a 24-month-old mouse is equivalent to 60 human years. Researchers found that 20% of sedentary mice experienced hearing loss, compared to 5% of mice who exercised.
Additionally, researchers looked at inflammation in both groups of mice, to see how that affected blood flow to their hair cells and strial capillaries. Hair cells and strial capillaries play important roles in our inner ear, the part of our auditory system which translates sound vibrations into neural signals to be registered in the brain as sound. Researchers found that the exercising mice had 50% less inflammation than mice who were sedentary.
In humans, a number of conditions related to the cardiovascular system could affect the inner ear environment, potentially leading to hearing loss. While presbycusis – age-related hearing loss – is the most common form of hearing loss, this study suggests that exercise could help curb the potential for hearing loss. Dr. Shinichi Someya of the UF College of Medicine notes that this is the “first research to show that regular exercise can prevent age-related hearing loss in mice.”
While we’re on the topic of health, here’s a quick note about comorbidities. Comorbidities are medical conditions that may occur with other existing conditions – such as hearing loss. With hearing loss, comorbidities include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, issues with the balance system, and increased rate of falls, and the potential risk for dementia.
Healthy blood flow to your inner ear system improves your hearing health – which is why conditions such as high blood pressure could affect the way you hear. Type 1 and 2 diabetes also interfere with blood flow, as the irregularity in insulin production could affect blood glucose levels.
Our balance system is linked to our auditory system, which could explain why researchers have found that untreated hearing loss tends to lead to an increased rate of falls. With untreated hearing loss, researchers have also found that the cognitive load placed on the brain increases our risk for developing dementia. Researchers have found that treating hearing loss with hearing aids supports cognitive abilities and helps to lower the risk for dementia, accidents, and falls.
To further support your hearing health, studies have found that eating a healthy diet with nutrients such as vitamins, A, C, and E, as well as magnesium and zinc, could protect and support your hearing. At the University of Michigan, Dr. Colleen Le Prell found that high levels of these vitamins taken before and after noise exposure in guinea pigs could actually protect hearing from noise-induced hearing loss
Additionally, a diet that includes rich omega-3 fatty acids – which can be found in fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines – could contribute to anti-inflammatory properties that support hearing health. The same goes for folic acid, which can be found in leafy greens and colorful vegetables.
Though hearing loss is a common medical condition, a recent study revealed some good news: for adults between age 20 to 69 years of age, the cases of hearing loss have been falling in the past decade. Researchers on the study believe this is due to improved health among older Americans, as well as raised awareness about hearing loss and hearing health.
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing
, contact us at one of our Puget Sound Hearing locations today
! We provide comprehensive tests and hearing aid fittings.