As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. You get wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Your skin gets a bit saggy in places. Maybe you start to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But the affect getting older has on the mind isn’t always so evident. You might observe that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you need to begin noting essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. The trouble is that this type of mental decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you might never notice it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can frequently worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. And you may even have a little bit of fun!
What’s the link between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why people will gradually lose their hearing as they age. This can lead to a higher risk of mental decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of cognitive decline? Research reveals several hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the outcome of neglected hearing loss. As a result of this lack of social connection, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also trigger 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, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can considerably lessen those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to increase cognitive function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always achieve improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So here are a few fun ways to develop your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a tasty and satisfying hobby. Your cognition can be improved with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. This takes place for several reasons:
- You get a bit of moderate physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving bags of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues including depression and anxiety at bay.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You have to use numerous fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing a lot of work. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long run.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is required to accomplish that. 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. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and flexible.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to jump into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering hot outside). And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. How long can you be underwater before it’s time to breathe? That sort of thing. This is still an effective mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the background of your mind. And mental decline will advance more slowly when you get involved in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some silent solo time with your mind. Meditation can help settle your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
Put simply, 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 saying: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, creating 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 great deal and utilize your imagination when you read.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. Imagination is needed to envision what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
Spend some time each day to strengthen 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!
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Even if you do every little thing correctly, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you manage your hearing loss.
When are able to have your hearing managed (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.