Exercise Helps Prevent Hearing Loss
Hearing loss will often occur for those over the age of 65. At least third of Americans over 65 will have hearing loss, and that increases to about half after the age of 75.
Yet because the process is often gradual, we may start to have hearing loss much earlier.
Hearing loss typically means either a loss of conductive hearing, sensorineural hearing loss or mixed hearing loss. Conductive hearing relates to the operations of the ear canal, eardrum and the bones of the middle ear, which vibrate sound.
Sensorineural hearing loss relates to the loss of nerve conductivity, which relates to the inner ear. When there is damage to these nerves, or they simply operate less effectively, they will transmit less sound to the brain.
Often, hearing loss is a combination of these two types of hearing loss. Sometimes hearing loss can be as minor as compacted earwax, foreign objects or ear infections.
But other times, there is damage to these ear parts, otosclerosis or other destructive issues at hand.
Exposure to loud noise at any point can certainly increase the risk of hearing loss during these years. People in occupations exposed to loud noise report higher incidence of hearing loss, for example. This includes those in the building trades, mining trades, transportation industry along with musicians.
Is there anything we can do to help prevent hearing loss? The research says yes.
Research also indicates that some types of hearing may be improved with pine bark extract. This also indicates the possibility that antioxidant intake may reduce hearing loss.
But there is something else we can do.
Exercise and hearing loss
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied 706 people who were at least 70 years old. Exercise levels of each person were reported using questionnaires. In addition, subjects wore an accelerometer to measure their daily physical activity.
An accelerometer is worn on the wrist to calculate the steps or motion of the wearer.
Each subject had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and received hearing testing in addition to accelerometer testing.
Exercise activity was measured over the previous 30 days from testing. Exertion levels, exercise frequency, and exercise durations were all collected and analyzed.
Exercise levels were categorized as 1) inactive, 2) insufficiently active, or 3) sufficiently active.
These categories were established from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: The inactive category equates to no exercise per week, while insufficiently active equates to less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Sufficiently active equates to more than or equal to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
The accelerometer data were collected and compared to the questionnaire data to establish a more true exercise frequency and duration.
The researchers also utilized regression analysis to establish factors related to heart disease risk and population trends. These were done to eliminate the associations of other factors with their hearing loss.
Each of the subjects was also given an extensive hearing exam.
Using accelerometer data, the researchers found those who had either moderate or greater hearing loss were 70 percent more likely to also be in the lower category of exercise. The number according to self-reporting was close to 60 percent.
The accelerometer result would likely be considered more accurate because sometimes people don’t like to report that they don’t exercise. But having both brought consensus and confirmation to the results.
The results were clear:is: Those who exercised more had a lower incidence of hearing loss.
A study from Finland’s University of Jyväskylä confirmed these results. This study tested 848 people between 75 years old and 90 years old. They gave them hearing exams. Then they tested each person with a battery of exercises, including indoor activity, stair-climbing, a half-kilometer walk and a two-kilometer walk.
Those who scored lower in all of these forms of exercise also were more likely to have hearing problems. For example, those who scored lower on stair-climbing had nearly three times the likelihood of having major hearing loss issues.
The ‘why’ to this is currently unknown, but we can logically take a stab at it. Exercise means increasing circulation and the elimination of toxins. Increased circulation means delivering nutrients to those cells that need them. And toxin elimination means removing those things that damage the components of our ears that transmit sound.
Ramping up exercise results
In terms of time efficiency, one of the best forms of exercise, as proven over many studies over the last decade is called HIIT – high intensity interval training. This has been shown to be an effective form of exercise, at least equal in effectiveness to continuous exercise over longer periods.
Basically, HIIT means a doing more strenuous exercise followed by a period of less strenuous activity. Distance runners will do interval training, and sometimes a form of longer-distance interval training called “Fartlek” – which basically means running faster for 25 to 50 years and then slowing down.
But HIIT can be done with virtually any type of workout. For someone who walks, fast walking can be alternated with slower walking. Or jogging with walking. Or sprinting with jogging. During a swim, we can swim faster then slower. And so on. The effect is that one can achieve the effects of exercise in a shorter period of time.
Some sports, such as squash, tennis, racquetball, soccer and basketball, have HIIT already included. Players in these sports will run for a bit, then stop or jog or walk. These sports provide some of the best forms of exercise for this reason.
This doesn’t mean that continual exercise is also not extremely healthy. Both forms are awesome. And for those who aren’t ready for any high-intensity exercise, moderate-intensity exercise can also achieve similar results.
Of course, getting a physical exam with your physician before undertaking any change in exercise or other routine is advisable.
Gispen FE, Chen DS, Genther DJ, Lin FR. Association between hearing impairment and lower levels of physical activity in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 Aug;62(8):1427-33. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12938.
Mikkola TM, Polku H, Portegijs E, Rantakokko M, Rantanen T, Viljanen A. Self-Reported Hearing Status Is Associated with Lower Limb Physical Performance, Perceived Mobility, and Activities of Daily Living in Older Community-Dwelling Men and Women. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Jun;63(6):1164-9. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13381.
Foster C, Farland CV, Guidotti F, Harbin M, Roberts B, Schuette J, Tuuri A, Doberstein ST, Porcari JP. The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. J Sports Sci Med. 2015 Nov 24;14(4):747-55.
Fisher G, Brown AW, Bohan Brown MM, Alcorn A, Noles C, Winwood L, Resuehr H, George B, Jeansonne MM, Allison DB. High Intensity Interval- vs Moderate Intensity– Training for Improving Cardiometabolic Health in Overweight or Obese Males: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS One. 2015 Oct 21;10(10):e0138853. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138853.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.