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How to avoid hearing loss while exercising

"by " Albert Stein

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise helps to defend against medical problems, is a great way to stay in shape and can actually make us happier! Between 2014 and 2015, 55.5 per cent of Australians aged between 18-64 participated in sufficient physical activity in any given week, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics.

However, recent research suggests that over-exerting while exercising can contribute to hearing loss.

Since being founded in the United States in the early noughties, CrossFit has since become a popular high-intensity program around the world, including Australia where there are 575 CrossFit studios alone*. Although it can deliver peak physical fitness, the sheer magnitude of the exercises involved is having some negative impacts on some participants.

There are 575 CrossFit studios in Australia alone.

Straining is just one of the practises adopted when weightlifting during CrossFit. It causes excess pressure within the brain, also known as intracranial pressure, leading to added build up in the ears. Holding your breath while lifting is also a contributing factor to built up blood and air pressure*.

Pressure within the ears causes pain and discomfort and can also increase the chance of impaired hearing as a result of perilymphatic fistula (PLF). A PLF is a small tear in the thin membrane that can affect pressure in the ear and cause fluid to leak*.

Fitness classes are the second most participated physical activity in Australia, with 17.4 per cent of the total population attending classes, according to Fitness Australia5. With energetic, motivational music and the opportunity to exercise with like-minded people, it makes for a fun environment.

Although the loud, thumping music is great for motivation, researchers from George Mason University uncovered that noise levels in these classes are harmful to our hearing. Spinning classes were shown to expose participants to decibel (dB) levels of more than 100 – well above the safety recommendation of 85dB6. 

One easy way to decrease the risk of hearing damage is to wear earplugs when exercising in the gym. These can lower noise levels by 15-30dB.

If you wear hearing aids, it's important to keep your devices dry as moisture can damage the intricate circuit. When swimming, simply leave your hearing aids at the pool's edge for best safekeeping.

Additionally, as sweat is the biggest source of moisture when exercising, many sport players will adopt effective sweat-resistant pouches to block excess moisture getting to the devices.

It's always important to look after the health of your ears. A great way to do so is to check your hearing with a professional. Call Audika today on 1800 340 631 or click here to book your assessment.

*Australian Bureau of Statistics, EXERCISE. Accessed September 2017
*CrossFit, Map. Accessed September 2017
*Healthy Hearing, Could your exercise program be causing hearing loss?. Accessed September 2017
*VEDA, PERILYMPH FISTULA. Accessed September 2017
*Fitness Australia, Profile of the Fitness Industry in Australia. Accessed September 2017
*Healthy Hearing, Dangerous decibels and exercise classes. Accessed September 2017