It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to develop some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Some sagging of the skin begins to take place in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a bit. It’s pretty difficult not to see these changes.
But the impact aging has on the mind is not always so evident. You might observe that your memory isn’t as strong as it once was and that you need to begin noting significant dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But sadly, you may not even detect this gradual onset. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And you might even have some fun!
What is the link between hearing and mental cognition
Most individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the chances of mental decline? Research points to a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this is not great for your mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily result in a sense of social isolation. As a result of this lack of social connection, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be seriously lowered by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be reduced even more by boosting your general brain function or cognition. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Enhancing mental function
So, how can you be sure to increase your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So here are a few fun ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be exceptionally fulfilling all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. This happens for several reasons:
- 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.
- You get a little modest physical activity. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added 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
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make an awesome 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 cultivated by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. Even if it seems 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 need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. This involves a ton of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your mind engaged in the activity you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and versatile.
Your talent level doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to collide with 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? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending a little quiet solo time with your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
Essentially, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! And even more than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or visualizing characters. This is how reading engages a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and use your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is reading. You have to utilize your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you devote some time every day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by having your hearing loss addressed
Neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, even if you do everything right. 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 you do get your hearing managed (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Call us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!