As your body ages, it’s not hard to notice the changes. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). 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 fade a little. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you’re having to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. The difficulty is that this kind of mental decline happens so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently worsen this decline.
As you age, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And the good news is, these exercises can be absolutely fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
Most people will slowly lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research points to several invisible risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. The brain may assign some resources, but in general, this isn’t great for cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re speaking less, socializing less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health concerns can increase the corresponding risk of cognitive decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more probable for a person who has untreated hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can considerably lessen those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize 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 needs to strengthen 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 improve your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a tasty and rewarding hobby. Your cognition can be improved with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are some reasons why:
- You get a little moderate physical activity. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems including depression and anxiety in check.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to apply planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make an awesome clay pot! It’s the process that is important with regard to exercising the brain, not so much the specific medium. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognitive ability because:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing a lot of work. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to achieve that. You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re creating a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Taking 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 clearly good for your physical health, there are a few ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to smash into 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. This is still an effective mental exercise even if it’s going on in the background of your mind. 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 solo time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation practices are designed to help you focus on your thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
Reading is good for you! And even better than that, it’s fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. In this way, reading engages a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, one of the best ways to improve the mind is reading. Imagination is needed to visualize what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a fulfilling dose of serotonin.
Spend some time every day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as good as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Even if you do every little thing correctly, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be struggling uphill, 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 (usually with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing assessment.