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Better health brings better hearing, research shows

Among 43 young adults, those with high cardiovascular health and high muscle strength had the best hearing. While high muscle strength added to the benefit of high cardiovascular health, strength by itself did not enhance hearing.

The study by Kathleen Hutchinson (speech pathology), Helaine Alessio (physical education, health and sport studies) and colleagues is reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Subjects listened to tones at three frequencies and were to press a button while hearing a tone and release the button when the tone faded away.

Cardiovascular health (via oxygen consumption) was determined by having the 24 female and 19 male subjects pedal a stationary bicycle. Resistance was increased at two-minute intervals, with heart rate and blood pressure measured during the exercise test. Strength was measured by participants doing leg curls, leg extensions, bench presses and hand grips.

Participants with low cardiovascular fitness and high muscle strength had the worst hearing. The difference in hearing sensitivity between the high- and low-fitness groups averaged about fourfold.

Another finding: While not statistically significant, participants who had less than the FDA recommended levels of cholesterol and fat had better hearing sensitivity.

Reasons for the health-hearing association are unclear, say report authors, but it appears the improved circulation of blood may enhance hearing sensitivity.

Previous studies by Hutchinson and Alessio suggest better fitness protects against hearing loss and good cardiovascular health protects against age-related hearing loss.

Date Published: 12/14/2000
Volume: 20   Number: 19

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