As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. Your skin begins to get some wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to get stiff. Some sagging of the skin begins to take place in certain places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both begin to diminish a bit. It’s pretty hard not to notice these changes.
But the impact aging has on the mind is not always so evident. You may find that you are needing to put significant 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. The trouble is that this sort of mental decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you get older. Even better, these exercises can be absolutely fun!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
Most individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does loss of hearing increase the risk of cognitive decline? Research points to a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this isn’t great for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the outcome of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for somebody who has untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be seriously reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be reduced even more by increasing your general brain function or cognition. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it requires to improve cognitive function? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and kind 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 very rewarding all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. This happens for several reasons:
- You get a little modest physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving bags of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
- 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 relieve 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, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that is important when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the specific medium. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- It requires making use 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. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. This involves a lot of brain power! There are a number of activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your talent level isn’t really relevant. What counts is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a number 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 cognitive health.
Any time 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!
You also have to think about your 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 happening in the background of your mind, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. Plus, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow down cognitive decline.
Just some time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
Put simply, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can travel everywhere, such as outer space, the ancient world, or the depths of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that goes into generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. In this way, reading activates a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
As a result, reading is one of the most ideal ways to focus your thinking. You have to utilize your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to visualize what’s going on, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you devote some time each day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as good as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Neglected hearing loss can raise your risk 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 an uphill battle.
When you do get your hearing treated (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!