The next time your dog brings you his leash and gives you that wistful “I-wish-someone-would-play-with-me” look, take the leash firmly in your hand, attach it to your furry friend’s collar and head out the door for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. In addition to making him extremely happy, you may also be protecting your hearing health.
Like other organs in your body, your hearing relies on oxygen-rich blood flow to work effectively. The hair cells in the cochlea, which are responsible for translating the sounds it receives from the outer ear into electrical impulses to send along the auditory nerve, are particularly sensitive to poor circulation. Once these hair cells are damaged, they cannot be regenerated, resulting in senorineural hearing loss.
Of course, you probably already know that regular cardiovascular exercise can protect your heart from heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity – not to mention the positive affects it has on your mood and stress levels. But did you know these health conditions can also damage your hearing health?
Studies of older adults indicate those with cardiovascular disease are 54 percent more likely to have a hearing impairment. A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that individuals with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss.
Exercise also helps reduce chances of developing depression and anxiety, two other health conditions which are detrimental to hearing health. According to a study by the National Council on Aging, individuals over the age of 50 with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report feeling depressed, anxious, angry and frustrated, and less likely to participate in organized social activities than those who used hearing aids. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins and boosts the brain’s production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which are mood-elevating chemicals. Additionally, exercise increases your chances for social interaction. Social isolation is another byproduct of untreated hearing loss.
How much exercise is enough? That depends upon your overall health and what your physician recommends; however, the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on Physical Activity and Health recommends you engage in some type of cardiovascular activity for approximately 30 minutes at a time, five times each week. Even those who only exercise once a week are 32 percent less likely than sedentary people to develop hearing loss. And if you don’t have a four-legged friend to encourage you to stroll the neighborhood, find other activities that get you up and moving. Gardening, house keeping, washing the car or parking further away from the store are all great ways to get your heart pumping – and keep your hearing healthy.