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 joints begin to get stiff. Some drooping of the skin starts to take place in certain places. Maybe you begin to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. These signs are hard to miss.
But the impact getting older has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as strong as it once was and that you need to begin writing essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline occurs so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently worsen this decline.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. Even better, these exercises can be downright fun!
What is the link between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age. This can contribute to a higher risk of mental decline. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several hidden 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. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this is not very good for your cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. Due to this lack of social connection, you can begin 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 having these mental health concerns can boost an associated danger of cognitive decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
Improving cognitive function
So how do you accomplish 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 increase your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very rewarding all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are a number of reasons why:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to utilize planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
- Gardening requires moderate 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 an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. Something like a simple 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 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.
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing lots of work. That kind of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a great deal of brain power! There are a number of activities that activate your imagination in exactly this way, so it offers a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your talent level doesn’t really matter. 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 day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anybody else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your 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 excellent mental exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your brain. 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. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are designed to help you focus on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
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. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go everywhere, including outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. A large portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, one of the very best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. Imagination is required to envision what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you spend some time each day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, even if you do everything right. But if you don’t get 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 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? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.