The Relationship Between Hearing Loss and Exercise

Hearing loss is associated with balance problems, lower physical functioning, diminished endurance, cognitive decline, and decreased well-being. Exercise can help improve these problems, but research shows that people who have hearing loss tend to get less exercise than people who don't have hearing loss. Additionally, some of the health problems that can contribute to hearing loss can worsen with a sedentary lifestyle—while exercise can help improve or prevent them.

If you or your child has hearing loss, it's important to consider how to incorporate exercise into your life.

What Is Hearing Loss?

Normal hearing can discern sounds at least at 25 dB, which is less than a faint whisper.

  • For adults, hearing loss is considered to be disabling when you have experienced a loss of 40 decibels (dB) in your best hearing ear, which is the equivalent sound that is found in a quiet room.
  • Children are considered to have hearing loss when they experience a loss of 30 dB, which is the equivalent of whispering in a library.

Common causes of hearing loss include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Birth complications
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Infectious diseases
  • Certain drugs and medications
  • Excessive noise
  • Aging
A woman exercising with headphones on
Tara Moore / Getty Images

Negative Effects of Exercise on Hearing

There are some things you need to watch out for when it comes to exercise and hearing loss. Some conditions may be exacerbated by physical activity, such as patulous eustachian tube and perilymphatic fistula.

And balance problems, which are often associated with hearing loss, can make certain types of exercises unsafe. Hearing loss is also associated with reduced strength and walking abilities. These factors can make it difficult to exercise and can increase the risk of injury.

Loud Music

Exercise can be linked to an increased risk of hearing loss when coupled with loud music. For example, approximately 30 out of 100 aerobics instructors say that they experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears) 50% of the time.

Your gym may offer aerobics classes that play music during workouts anywhere between 60 dB (dishwasher or dryer) to 90 or 100 dB (subway, passing motorcycle, or a hand drill). Any volume above 90 dB is considered extremely loud. The International Association of Fitness Professionals recommends that you be provided earplugs or other hearing protective items if volumes exceed 90 dB.

You can use the information below to help determine your risk of acquiring hearing loss during a 60-minute aerobics class:

  • High-risk = 97 dB (hand drill or pneumatic drill)
  • At-risk = 89 dB (subway or passing motorcycle)
  • Low-risk = 85 dB (kitchen blender)
  • Very low-risk = 80 dB (blow dryer)

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), you should not exceed the following loudness for more than the specified time length to minimize the risk of hearing loss:

  • 106 dB: 3.75 minutes
  • 103 dB: 7.5 minutes
  • 100 dB: 15 minutes
  • 97 dB: 30 minutes
  • 94 dB: 1 hour
  • 91 dB: 2 hours
  • 88 dB: 4 hours
  • 85 dB: 8 hours

These recommended time limits are for general loudness exposure. However, research has shown that your ear has a temporary threshold shift (TTS) which makes you more prone to hearing damage with exercise. You can experience tinnitus (ringing in your ears) within 2 minutes of exercising when music volumes are greater than 90 dB.

Benefits of Exercise on Hearing

When it's planned safely, exercise can help you improve your balance and may even benefit your hearing.

Metabolic syndrome, considered a prediabetic condition associated with weight gain, is associated with hearing loss. And obstructive sleep apnea, which is associated with obesity, is associated with Meniere's disease, a condition that causes dizziness and hearing loss.

Walking, strength training, and cardiovascular exercises can help prevent obesity and can help with weight loss. These lifestyle interventions are known to reduce the risk of obstructive sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome.

And fine motor exercises can help improve motor skills in children who have motor and balance problems associated with hearing loss.

Yoga practitioners suggest that hearing loss prevention and reduction of symptoms can occur through several yoga practices.

The yoga exercises associated with benefits related to hearing loss include:

  • Greeva Chalan: neck flexion-extension exercise
  • Skandh Chalan: shoulder exercise
  • Brahmari Pranayama: bee breath
  • Kumbhak: breathing exercise
  • Shankha Naad: blowing a Shankha or snail pipe

A Word From Verywell

Approximately 360 million people worldwide have hearing loss, and almost 10 percent (or 32 million) are children. Some preventative interventions may help reduce the risk of certain types of childhood and adult hearing loss. These include getting medical attention if you or your child has signs of an ear infection, not placing objects in the ears, and avoiding loud music. If you or your child already have been diagnosed with hearing loss, exercise is an important lifestyle strategy that can help improve well-being and other effects associated with hearing loss—especially balance problems.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Martinez-Amezcua P, Kuo PL, Reed NS, Simonsick EM, Agrawal Y, Lin FR, Deal JA, Ferrucci L, Schrack JA. Association of hearing impairment with higher-level physical functioning and walking endurance: Results from the Baltimore longitudinal study of aging. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2021 Sep 13;76(10):e290-e298. doi:10.1093/gerona/glab144

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

  3. Mikkola TM, Polku H, Portegijs E, Rantakokko M, Rantanen T, Viljanen A. Self-reported hearing status Is associated with lower limb physical performance, perceived mobility, and activities of daily living in older community-dwelling men and women. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Jun;63(6):1164-9. doi:10.1111/jgs.13381

  4. Rim HS, Kim MG, Park DC, Kim SS, Kang DW, Kim SH, Yeo SG. Association of metabolic syndrome with sensorineural hearing loss. J Clin Med. 2021 Oct 22;10(21):4866. doi:10.3390/jcm10214866

  5. Kim JY, Ko I, Cho BJ, Kim DK. Association of obstructive sleep apnea with the risk of Ménière's disease and sudden sensorineural hearing loss: A study using data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service. J Clin Sleep Med. 2019 Sep 15;15(9):1293-1301. doi:10.5664/jcsm.7922

  6. Mehrem ES, Fergany LA, Mohamed SA, Fares HM, Kamel RM. Efficacy of fine motor and balance exercises on fine motor skills in children with sensorineural hearing loss. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2021 Dec 30. doi:10.3233/RNN-211156

  7. Taneja, MK. 2014. Improving hearing performance through yoga. J Yoga Phys Ther. 5:3. doi:10.4172/2157-7595.1000194

  8. World Health Organization. Deafness and Hearing Loss

Additional Reading
  • Curhan, SG, Eavey, R, Wang, M, Stampfer, MJ & Curhan, GC. 2013. Body mass index, waist circumference, physical activity, and risk of hearing loss in women. Am J Med. 126(12):1142.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.04.026.
  • Wilson, WJ & Herbstein, N. 2003. The Role of Music Intensity in Aerobics: Implications for Hearing Conservation. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 14(1), pp. 29-38(10).

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.