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

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

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

The Study

Researchers at the University of Florida began by arranging the mice into two groups. The first group of mice had access to a running wheel and the second group did not. The researchers then measured how far each of the mice ran individually 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 contrasted this group of exercising mice with the control group of non-exercising mice.

The Results

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

Why is this important? Researchers believe that age-related inflammation damages 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 far faster rate than the exercising group.

This led to a 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice compared with a 5 percent hearing loss in the active mice.

Implications

For humans, this means age-related inflammation can damage the anatomy of the inner ear, bringing about age-related hearing loss. By exercising, however, inflammation can be limited and the structures of the inner ear—together with hearing—can be conserved.

Further studies are underway, but researchers believe that regular exercise suppresses inflammation and yields growth factors that assist with circulation and oxygenation of the inner ear. If that’s true, then physical exercise might be one of the top ways to prevent hearing loss into old age.

Close to two-thirds of those age 70 and older have age-related hearing loss. Pinpointing the variables that lead to hearing loss and the prevention of damage to the inner ear has the capacity to help millions of individuals.

Stay tuned for additional research in 2017.