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Is My Exercise Routine Causing My Hearing Loss?

exercise and tinnitus

With centuries worth of knowledge and research surrounding the benefits of working out and your body and psyche, it’s no wonder that diet and exercise are prescribed to treat almost anything. Patients suffering from serious ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and even cancer are recommended to exercise to protect their health, but your dedication to the gym may actually cause more harm than good when it comes to your hearing. Before signing up for that new membership, learn how strenuous exercise alongside loud music could be the cause of your tinnitus and hearing loss.

Heavy Lifting and Damaged Hearing

Strenuous exercise can lead to serious exertion on your part, causing you to strain your body or hold your breath when lifting heavy weights. This extreme straining can cause a dangerous build-up of pressure within your brain known as “intracranial pressure”, which can sequentially find its way into the ears. Holding your breath while straining can compound the effect, leading to even more of this pressure in the brain and inner ear. Why is this dangerous? Increased pressure in the inner ear can cause a Perilymphatic Fistula (PLF), a small defect or tear in one or both thin membranes that keep fluid in the inner ear from reaching the middle ear cavity. If excessive pressure results in a PLF, inner ear fluid may leak into the middle ear, causing issues with balance, tinnitus, sensitive hearing, and even sudden hearing loss. These tears can heal on their own but sometimes may require surgery to the ear canal.

Turn Down The Volume of Your Workout Playlist

When committing to serious exercise, motivation is critical to reaching your workout goals. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, the right soundtrack is vital to keeping you motivated and in the zone. But when listening to your favorite workout playlist, how loud is too loud?
Competing with noise from machines and other members, research has shown that many gyms play their music at a dangerous level to keep you stimulated, sometimes reaching volumes of 99 decibels. For perspective, the human ear can only withstand 1 hours worth of exposure to 94 decibels before damage occurs. If your ears are ringing after attending your next spin class, it might be beneficial to ask your gym to lower the tunes.
Most people exercise to their own catered playlist though, often played through headphones at an ear-splitting level. With iPhones capable of reaching volumes of 110 decibels (the equivalent of a live rock concert), you could be subjecting your hearing to 16 times the level deemed safe every time you hit the gym.

What You Can Do

  1. Lowering the volume during your next workout can save you from the bothersome buzzing of tinnitus or permanent hearing damage. Use the built-in volume limit feature on your iPhone or politely ask the gym to lower the music.
  2. If you know you will be subjected to loud noises such as music or members dropping weights, consider wearing ear protection on your next visit.
  3. Reduce the weight. Lifting far more than your body can handle may look cool, but a PLF is not.
  4. If you experience hearing loss or symptoms of tinnitus after a workout, seek out the advice and help of a health care provider or audiologist.