Physical Activity May Help Prevent Hearing Loss In Women

A new study links exercise to a decreased chance of developing hearing loss in women.

Hearing exam image via shutterstock

Hearing exam image via shutterstock

Hearing loss is commonly thought to be a symptom of growing older. But researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital says that there are actions you can take to prevent it.

The study found that a higher body mass index (BMI) and a larger waist circumference are associated with a higher risk of hearing loss. Alternately, researchers also found that increased physical activity reduces the risk of hearing loss.

The study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, used lifestyle and health data collected from the Nurses’ Health Study II, which followed more than 64,000 women from 1989 to 2009. Researchers examined the BMI, waist circumference, physical activity, and self-reported hearing loss of the women. The results showed that women with a BMI of 30 to 34 had a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss than women with a BMI of under 25. Those with a BMI of 40 had a 25 percent increased risk. Compared to women with a waist circumference of less than 71 centimeters, women with a waist circumference of 80-88 centimeters had an increased risk of 11 percent. And those with a circumference of more than 88 centimeters had an increased risk of 27 percent.

Basically, all of these numbers mean that the bigger the waist, the higher the risk of hearing loss.

On the other hand, the study’s results also showed that women who exercised more had a decreased risk of hearing loss. The women who were the most physically active in the study had a decreased risk of 17 percent compared to the least physically active women of the group. The most commonly reported physical activity was walking, and researchers determined that walking for two hours a week or more was associated with a decreased risk of 15 percent as compared to walking less than one hour a week.

Dr. Sharon Curhan, lead author of the study, said in a report:

“We often think of hearing loss as an inevitable part of the aging process, but these findings provide evidence that potentially modifiable risk factors, such as maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active, may help in the prevention of hearing loss or delay its progression.”

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 360 million people suffer from hearing loss that they associate with aging. Dr. Curhan and her team’s findings may help decrease that number in the future.