It’s not difficult to observe how your body ages over time. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints start to get stiff. Your skin becomes a little droopy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a little. These indicators are tough to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how growing older affects your mind. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you have to begin writing important dates on your calendar. Maybe you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. The difficulty is that this kind of cognitive decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often exacerbate this decline.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. And the good news is, these exercises can be downright fun!
The link between hearing and cognition
There are numerous reasons why people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older. This can lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of mental decline? There are several silent risk factors as revealed by research.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this isn’t great for your cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily result in a sense of social isolation. 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 lead to depression and other mental health issues. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can considerably lessen those risks. And those risks can be lowered even more by improving your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to improve mental function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some enjoyable ways to develop your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be exceptionally rewarding all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. This takes place for several reasons:
- You get a bit of modest physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens need to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb desires!
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can take up pottery and make an awesome clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are several reasons why doing 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, a lot of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That kind of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a great deal of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. What counts is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you have 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.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still a good cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your mind. And mental decline will advance more slowly when you get involved in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just some time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
It’s great for you to read! And even better than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go everywhere, such as outer space, the ancient world, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using lots of brain power. A big portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think quite a bit and use your imagination when you read.
As a result, reading is one of the most ideal ways to focus your thoughts. You have to use your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
Spend some time each day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you like. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss addressed
Even if you do everything correctly, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of cognitive decline. But if you don’t get your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be a difficult fight.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss treated (typically with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing assessment.