As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. You develop wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to get stiff. Your skin gets a bit saggy in places. Perhaps you start to observe some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But the impact getting older has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You might find that you are needing to put important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more frequently. But sadly, you might not even recognize this slow onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The connection between cognition and hearing
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 as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing begins to atrophy. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this is not very good for your mental health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re talking less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Untreated hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health issues. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly lowered by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be reduced even more by increasing your overall brain function or cognition. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to improve cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to increase your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So improve your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be incredibly fulfilling all by itself (it’s also a tasty hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are several reasons why:
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems such as depression and anxiety in check.
- Gardening requires modest physical exercise. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- You need to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, not all gardens need to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are several reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You need to make use of lots of fine motor skills. Even if it seems 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 haul.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a lot of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by participating in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. What counts is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, a hot afternoon 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 mental health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need 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!
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? That sort of thing. This is still an effective mental exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your mind. Also, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
Just a little time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes called 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
Put simply, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
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 anywhere, including outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. A large portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a lot and use your imagination when you read.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to focus your thinking. You have to use your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a pleasant dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
Take some time each day to build your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Neglected hearing loss can increase your danger of mental decline, even if you do everything correctly. But if you don’t have your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be a difficult fight.
When are able to have your hearing managed (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 an issue for you? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing test.