There are many reasons to make an exercise routine a priority. Most everyone knows this. But aiding your hearing is probably a reason you’re not aware of.
There’s research to support this, including a long-term study conducted by Miami University in the early 2000s that spanned a decade. It found that people over the age of 50 who worked out for at least 20 minutes five times a week were more likely to maintain hearing analogous to people still in their 30s.
A more recent study carried out by John Hopkins University found similar results, with positive outcomes for seniors who exercised as little as three hours a week.
The gist of the findings is that better cardiovascular health means higher functioning ears. Crucial parts of the inner ear—especially the cochlear hair cells that are the transition point between sound waves and the electrical signals sent to the brain that are what we actually “hear”—depend on vigorous blood circulation.
A sedentary lifestyle inevitably leads to poorer cardiovascular performance. And unlike body hair, if cochlear hairs atrophy and die they are not replaced with new ones. This is one of the primary drivers of presbycusis—the fancy word for people becoming hard of hearing as they get older.
Also at risk from reduced circulatory function are spiral ganglions, which are the nerve cells that act as the “wiring” that carry electrical impulses from the cochlear to the brain. They too depend on a healthy body to stay in peak shape.
The gist is that exercise—walking, swimming, biking, weight training, or even just gardening and housework—will lessen inflammation throughout the body and increase the oxygen content of the bloodstream. And both these things will help your hearing.