What is Exercise Induced Hearing Loss?

Woman with Exercise Induced Hearing Loss


Exercise induced hearing loss is hearing damage caused by participating in physical activity. The specific causes for this hearing loss type can range from overexertion to exposure to loud noises at your favorite fitness center.

Either way, while exercise is fantastic for your mental and physical health, not to mention your hearing health, spending time at the gym even has its share of potential downsides. Especially if you visit the gym on the daily, you are at greater risk for acquiring permanent damage to your hearing.

If you are just starting to make trips to the gym, or if you’re already a gym rat, it’s a great idea to start learning how to protect your hearing the best you can. Let’s take a moment to explore how exercised induced hearing loss occurs and how it can be prevented.

How Can Exercise Lead to Hearing Loss?

The Impact of Lifting Weights

Of the fitness activities out there, lifting weights has the greatest potential to negatively affect your ability to hear. But what’s the connection between doing some bench presses and your ears? There are two factors:

  1. Strain

  2. Breath holding

When we push our weight lifting abilities to the max, we put a strain on our bodies. This can lead to intracranial pressure, or build up of pressure in your brain. In turn, you may experience a build-up of pressure within the ears. Add holding your breath into the mix, and you increase your chances of tearing a membrane.

This membrane is called the perilymphatic fistula (PLF). The PLF is a small, thin membrane. Even a tiny tear in this membrane can cause fluid from the inner ear to link into the middle ear, which can result in hearing damage.

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Exposure to Loud Noises

Strangely enough, the second cause of exercise induced hearing loss has very little to do with the actual act of exercising. Rather, it’s loud noises you’re exposed to at the gym that can increase your risk of hearing loss.

Sound is measured in decibels (dB). With this in mind, when our ears are exposed to sound levels of over 85 dB, we can experience permanent hearing damage. Whether you’ve realized it or not, the gym environment puts you at greater risk of experiencing hearing loss as a result of being exposed to loud noises.

To put this in perspective, there’s usually music playing in the background at the gym, which often reaches sound levels of 90 to 100 dB. In addition to the music booming over the gym speakers, you are also most likely being exposed to other high noise levels, like the loud thud of weights (reaching up to 140 dB).

Exposure to such noises for extended periods of time can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, and potentially even tinnitus (ringing in the ears). To prevent being diagnosed with either, it’s important to become aware of the sounds you are exposed to while you exercise at your favorite gym.

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How to Protect Your Hearing While Exercising

Now that you’re aware of the potential negative effects of exercise on your hearing health, you may be wondering what you can do to prevent them. For your convenience, here are 5 quick tips.

  1. Remember to breathe while weight lifting. This will help to prevent pressure from building in your brain and, thereby, your ears.

  2. Do not strain your body. One way to do so is by gradually working your way up to heavier weights. You may also wish to avoid intensive exercise programs, like those offered at Crossfit.

  3. Avoid dropping weights. Remember that loud thud, we mentioned? The thud of weights can more quickly have a negative impact on your hearing than even the loud music around you.

  4. Wear earplugs. In order to protect your ears from the loud noises in the gym, bring along a pair of earplugs to reduce exposure.

  5. Turn down the volume on your headphones. If you listen to music on a personal device, don’t forget to keep the volume to a minimum.

What If You Already Have Hearing Loss?

If you’re concerned that you may experiencing exercise induced hearing loss, it may be time to seek counsel from a medical professional. Your doctor will be able to identify if exercise was truly the root cause of your hearing loss, as well as what type of hearing loss you may have.

With you have your diagnosis in hand, you may start looking for a way to treat your hearing loss. Advanced Affordable Hearing helps people to hear better at a price they can afford. How? By pre-programming our hearing aids to the most common hearing losses, we’re able to keep our prices low.

To get started on your journey to better hearing, contact us now.


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