As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to get stiff. Your skin gets a little droopy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a little. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s harder to see how aging affects your mind. You may find that you are having to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more frequently. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline happens so slowly and gradually that you may never notice it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often exacerbate this decline.
Fortunately, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you get older. Even better, these exercises can be downright fun!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
Most individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). The risk of mental decline will then increase. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several silent risk factors according to research.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound starts to atrophy. The brain might reallocate some resources, but in general, this is not very good for mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is often the consequence of neglected hearing loss. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also bring about depression and other mental health issues. And the corresponding chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more likely for a person who has untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be significantly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to strengthen mental function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So boost your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very satisfying all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are a few reasons why:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues like depression and anxiety in check.
- Gardening requires moderate physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving bags of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone no matter the artistic ability. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the particular medium. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a number of reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You have to make use of many fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long run.
- You have to make use of your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a lot of brain power! There are a few activities that activate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Your level of talent doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are a few ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you have to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is going on in the background of your brain, it’s still great mental exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s great for you to read! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go everywhere, including outer space, the ancient world, or the bottom of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using lots of brain power. A large portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Hence, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. You have to utilize your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to visualize what’s happening, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you take a little time each day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as good as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Even if you do everything correctly, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of cognitive decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
When you do get your hearing treated (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam and reconnect to life!