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February 11, 2003

Exercise may help stop hearing loss

From: Kingsport Times News, TN - 11 Feb 2003

By Danielle Tousinau

Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting older adults. However, cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are the nation's number one killer.

In 1963 Congress proclaimed February as American Heart Month. The American Heart Association campaigns during this month to educate the public about the warning signs and risk factors for heart disease and stroke, the importance of learning CPR, the benefits of regular exercise and a heart-healthy lifestyle, and the importance of funding for cardiovascular research.

Most people know that exercise has many health benefits and that it can help prevent cardiovascular disease . Did you know that cardiovascular disease can cause hearing loss, and that exercising can help prevent hearing loss?

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied the possible association between cardiovascular disease and hearing loss in older adults. They studied 1,600 individuals between the ages of 52 and 97 and found that individuals who had cardiovascular disease were 54 percent more likely to have decreased hearing ability. Older patients with a history of heart attack were about 80 percent more likely to have impaired hearing than similar patients who did not have a history of heart attack.

Women who had a history of heart attack were also more likely to have decreased hearing ability than men with the same history.

Exercise not only helped reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also helped sustain normal cochlear function. People who exercised at least once a week were 32 percent less likely to have impaired cochlear function compared to people who did not exercise at all. Individuals who did not exercise at all had decreased cochlear function compared to those individuals who did exercise even slightly.

A similar study at Miami University of Ohio showed that regular exercise may act as a defense against hearing loss. The researchers looked at groups of people whose jobs caused high levels of noise. All of the subjects in their study experienced temporary hearing loss after exposure to noise. However, people who were physically fit had only half of the amount of hearing loss as people who weren't physically fit. People who were the least fit had the most hearing loss following noise exposure, and highly fit people showed the least amount of hearing loss following noise exposure.

The highly fit people were defined as exercising briskly three to four times a week.

The connection between hearing loss and cardiovascular disease and lack of exercise has not been definitively explained. However, researchers propose that exercise allows more oxygen-rich blood to be pumped to small distant areas of the body like the hearing organ in the inner ear.

Exercise also helps prevent clogging of arteries and maintains blood flow in all parts of the body, including arteries that supply blood for the inner ear.

Another benefit of exercise is that it produces an increase in certain stress proteins. These proteins defend the organs of the inner ear against stressors so the organs and tissues maintain their integrity and stay healthy longer.

Take the time during American Heart Month to learn about the many benefits of exercise. It is important not only to your overall health, but also your hearing health.

Copyright 2002 Kingsport Times-News. All rights reserved.