It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to get stiff. Your skin becomes a little droopy in places. Perhaps you begin to detect some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But the impact aging has on the mind is not always so evident. You might find that you are having to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you miss important events or forget what you were doing more often. But sadly, you might not even notice this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. Even better, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why people will slowly lose their hearing as they age. This can lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research reveals several invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. The brain might assign some resources, but in general, this is not great for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the consequence of untreated hearing loss. Because of this lack of social connection, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health problems can increase an associated danger of cognitive decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, boosting 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 improve cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to increase your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some fun ways to develop your brain and improve your sharpness.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a delicious and gratifying hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems such as depression and anxiety in check.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
- You get a bit of moderate physical exercise. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You have to make use of your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is needed to accomplish that. You can stimulate your imagination by undertaking these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your mind engaged in the task you’re doing. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original work of art, your talent level doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Going for a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? That kind of thing. Even if this type of thinking is happening in the background of your brain, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you take part in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
Essentially, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is good for you! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. A huge portion of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. You’re forced to think quite a bit and use your imagination when you read.
Consequently, reading is one of the most ideal ways to focus your thoughts. Imagination is needed to envision what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t really make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you allocate time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as effective as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can increase your danger of mental decline, even if you do everything correctly. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
When you do get your hearing treated (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.