Say What? A Workout to Improve Your Hearing?

Couple exercising to help their hearing.

You’ve likely heard that the way you work out can harm your hearing. We’ve covered the workout-hearing-loss connection here at Helping Me Hear. But did you know that some workouts are thought to help your hearing?
Let’s take a closer looks at some of these unconventional “workout” routines.

1. Noise Filtering Workout

Does your blood pressure rise when you’re trying to hear someone over background noise? You want to focus on your sister sharing a story about her recent trip with her children to Yellowstone, but every word she speaks seems overpowered by the sound of others speaking, the TV or a fan.

If you’ve lost some of the frequencies in your hearing, distinguishing between sounds seems an endless battle that may even leave you ready for a nap.

Noise filtering is a brain exercise where you expose yourself to ever-increasing background noise levels as you speak with someone. With each level mastered, you move onto the next. This exercise doesn’t change your ability to hear frequencies. (For that hearing aids programmed to amplify the frequencies you’re unable to hear work best.) But exercises like this may help you strengthen your ability to focus distinctions in sounds and be more effective in discerning voices.

2. Yoga & Relaxation Workouts

Uncontrolled stress and anxiety can increase tinnitus (ringing of the ears). It can raise your blood pressure and make listening to your friend in a quiet park seem as challenging as trying to have a conversation on a busy bus. High blood pressure, over time, damages blood vessels including those needed to hear.

Yoga is a great way to relax your body and mind. Mindfulness, practicing yogic breathing and other exercises proven to reduce your blood pressure can ease stress. These techniques are also thought to be helpful in managing tinnitus.

3. Audio Workout Apps

Yes, there’s an app that asserts it can help you hear better. The app first asks you to take some fun, music-based tests to learn how you hear. It needs to know the extent of your hearing loss. The app then emits through headphones an almost inaudible sound that stimulates the part of your inner ear that’s struggling to hear that sound. Once the sound becomes fully audible, you’ll adjust the app back to barely audible.

You have tiny hair-like sensors in your inner ear. Each one picks up a certain frequency. It dances with those sound waves. The brain interprets this dance into distinct sounds.

That’s how the brain knows if that loud sound outside is a police siren, a car alarm or a noisy storm. Different hairs dance in the inner ear with each type of sound, and your brain learns what these sounds represent.

Throughout your life, you’re exposed to noises that damage these tiny hairs. Humans are unable to grow back or heal these hairs, which is why age-related hearing loss is generally permanent. But, these apps claim, you can learn to hear at your best by working with what you have.

Apps like this are attempting to revitalize these damaged hair cells as much as possible. At the same time, apps like this work out the brain. This causes it to build new neural pathways between the hair cells and the auditory center in your brain. The theory is, the more of these microscopic pathways your auditory nerves have, the better you’ll process sound.

Studies conducted by one of these audio workout companies indicated a 10 decibel increase in volume perception for the frequencies that the app treated in 75% of the participants. A 10 decibel increase in sound volume roughly represents the doubling of how loud the human ear perceives something to be. So 10 decibels is very significant. Even if an audio workout app increases your ability to hear by 1 decibel in that frequency, that would be an improvement.

We can’t attest to the effectiveness of apps like this for everyone with hearing loss (more research is certainly needed), but early evidence is intriguing.

4. Hearing Aid Workout

Finally, working out your brain using your hearing aids is another great way to improve your hearing. Hearing loss has been linked to a reduction in cognitive function. When you restore your hearing with hearing technology you need to retrain your brain to hear and interpret sounds. This takes practice. Your hearing expert will likely suggest exercises and strategies to learn how to most effectively use your hearing aids. These exercises not only help the artificial intelligence in the devices learn how to adapt to changes in your environment, they help your brain process the sounds correctly.

While exercises like these may help, if you’re experiencing hearing loss don’t delay getting tested and seeking treatment. Hearing loss has been linked to more than just loss of cognitive function. (See some of the shocking statistics on hearing loss.)
If your hearing loss is noticeable, talk to a hearing expert.

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