As your body ages, it’s not hard to detect the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees begin to hurt a little bit more. Your skin becomes a little saggy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both begin to diminish a little. It’s pretty difficult not to see these changes.
But the impact getting older has on the mind isn’t always so obvious. You might observe that your memory isn’t as strong as it once was and that you have to start writing essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. The difficulty is that this sort of mental decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you might never realize it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can frequently worsen this decline.
Fortunately, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. And the good news is, these exercises can be downright fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
The majority of individuals will gradually 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 hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when somebody has neglected hearing loss. The brain may reallocate some resources, but in general, this is not very good for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re talking less, socializing less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Neglected hearing loss can also bring about depression and other mental health concerns. And an associated chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to improve cognitive function? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So here are a few enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be incredibly rewarding all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are a few reasons why:
- You need to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening requires modest physical activity. Increased 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 issues including depression and anxiety in check.
As an added bonus, you get healthy vegetables and fruits from your hobby. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the particular medium. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognitive ability because:
- You have to make use of many fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing lots of work. Over the long haul, your mental function will be healthier.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a lot of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and versatile.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original work of art, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has mental health benefits.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, slamming into someone else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is going on in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent mental exercise. And mental decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by practicing meditation.
It’s great for you to read! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. In a book, you can travel everywhere, including outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. A large portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without employing your imagination and thinking a lot.
Consequently, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is by reading. You have to use your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to visualize what’s happening, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t actually matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you take a little time each day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as effective as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing correctly, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase 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 treated (usually because of 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 a problem for you? Contact us today to schedule a hearing test and reconnect to life!