How Staying Fit Can Help Your Hearing Loss

mature man doing pushups

Exercise was found to reduce chances of hearing loss.

Putting on a few extra pounds will make getting into your favorite pair of jeans more challenging, but that's not the only aspect of weight gain you have to worry about. Research is drawing deeper connections between obesity and hearing loss. In a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, 68,000 women answered questions about their health and daily habits every two years between 1989 and 2009. In that final year, they were asked about their hearing health during the 20-year period.

In the end, one in six participants reported hearing loss during some point on that timeline. From these results, researchers found that a higher body mass index (BMI) and wider waist area correlated with an increased risk for hearing loss. Specifically, when compared to women with a healthy weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9), those with a BMI of 30 to 34 had a 17 percent higher risk of developing hearing loss. Participants with a BMI of 40 or over experienced a relative risk that was 25 percent higher.

Conversely, exercise was found to reduce the participants' chances of experiencing hearing loss. Women who reported walking four or more hours each week were 15 percent less likely to develop hearing loss than those who walked an hour or less per week.

A deeper look at the relationship between BMI and hearing loss
Obesity is associated with a number of health complications, primarily cardiovascular disease. When a problem with the heart or arteries surfaces, high blood pressure (hypertension) can become a serious issue. The increased pressure can cause small tears in blood vessels and lead to plaque buildup, both of which can affect blood flow. This, in turn, can reduce the flow of oxygen to your whole body, ears included, which certainly isn't helpful for hearing health. In fact, research at the Mayo Clinic revealed a link between tinnitus and high blood pressure.

Exercising with hearing aids
It's important to maintain a healthy BMI to prevent hearing loss or to reduce and delay future damage if you've already visited an audiologist or hearing health professional and determined you need hearing aids. Step one involves sticking to a well-balanced diet. Talk to your doctor about the number of calories you should consume each day. Step two is the more challenging exercise phrase which plays a significant role in controlling BMI since a higher metabolic rate sticks with you for several hours after exercise, burning even more calories. However, exercise without sweating is ineffective, so for someone wearing hearing, sweat can be a problem.

Some hearing aids have moisture-resistant coatings on the internal electronics. Other styles may have available accessories to protect them from moisture. Please note we are using the term "moisture" and not "get wet." In other words, excessive sweating and swimming are still no-nos. The safest bet is to remove your hearing aids and store them in a safe place before starting a high-intensity workout. However, Zumba, step and spinning classes, among others, require that you can hear the instructor, so going without may not be an option. Be sure to talk to your specialist about how to have the best of both worlds.

Whenever you are concerned about moisture and hearing aids, take extra steps to dry them thoroughly no matter how resistant they are supposed to be. Take out the battery, leave the battery door open and store them in a safe place to dry out. Make sure pets can't get to them. Do not use heat of any kind, but the additional airflow from a hair dryer with no heat can speed drying – Remember: No heat. There are also drying products that you can get from your hearing specialist as well.

Exercising without your hearing aids allows for the highest level of protection, but that leaves you without the safety mechanism of your hearing. What happens when you're going for a run around the block and don't hear the bark of a dog that has gotten loose? With no time to prepare for an attack, Fluffy has the advantage, and you could end up seriously injured. Follow these tips if you decide to exercise without your hearing aids:

  • Work out with a partner: If you have someone with healthy ears by your side, he or she can warn you of any dangers you wouldn't otherwise hear. Additionally, always let someone know where you're going and how long you'll be gone during your fitness sessions.
  • Run against traffic: This makes it visually safer for both you and oncoming vehicles.
  • Wear reflective clothing: When exercising outside, wearing bright, reflective clothing will help oncoming cars see you better.
  • Go to the gym: While hearing is important no matter the location, a gym provides a more controlled environment, meaning no cars, no bicyclists and no Fluffy.

Exercise is important for your overall health and preventing further hearing loss. Take advantage of the last few days of nice weather and squeeze in a good workout! To be safe, see your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.

If you are concerned about hearing loss, for yourself or someone important to you, the audiologists and hearing health care professionals at AccuQuest can help. Contact your local AccuQuest Hearing Center to schedule a hearing test and consultation.

If you want to learn more about how your hearing works, hearing loss and hearing aids, how hearing aids work or why it is a good idea to see an audiologist or hearing health care professional, click here to view and download your own copy of AccuQuest's Journey to Better Hearing.

Research is linking connections between obesity and hearing loss finding that exercise may reduce the participants’ chances of experiencing hearing loss.