As your body gets older, it’s not hard to notice the changes. You get wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to stiffen. Your skin gets a little saggy in places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both begin to diminish a little. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But the impact aging has on the mind isn’t always so obvious. You may find that you’re having to note important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Perhaps you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more frequently. But regrettably, you might not even notice this slow onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often exacerbate this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. Even better, these exercises can be absolutely fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). The risk of mental decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the chances of cognitive decline? There are a number of hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing begins to atrophy. The brain might assign some resources, but overall, this is not very good for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. Due to this lack of social connection, you can begin to detect cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health problems can increase the corresponding danger of cognitive decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for a person who has neglected hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can substantially lessen those risks. And those risks can be decreased even more by enhancing your general brain function or cognition. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to increase cognitive function
So, how can you be certain to increase your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some fun ways to exercise your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be exceptionally satisfying all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also improve your cognitive function. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening involves modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving containers of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to use planning skills, problem solving skills, and examine the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, not all gardens need to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb desires!
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- You have to make use of numerous fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long haul, your mental function will be healthier.
- You have to make use of your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a great deal of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original work of art, your talent level doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, colliding with someone else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this kind of thinking is occurring in the background of your brain, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you participate in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are designed to help you focus on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. A large portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. You have to utilize your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to visualize what’s happening, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you spend some time every day reading and building your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Neglected hearing loss can raise your danger of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss dealt with (typically with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!