As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Your skin becomes a bit droopy in places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both begin to diminish a little. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging impacts your mind. You may notice that your memory isn’t as strong as it used to be and that you need to begin writing essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more often. The difficulty is that this type of cognitive decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And the good news is, these exercises can be utterly fun!
The connection between hearing and cognition
There are a number of reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they age. The risk of mental decline will then increase. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several silent risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain that processes sound starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t great for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of untreated hearing loss. Due to this lack of social connection, you can begin to detect cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health issues can increase the corresponding danger of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can significantly lessen those risks. And those risks can be lowered even more by improving your general brain function or cognition. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs 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 fruits and vegetables can be extremely fulfilling all by itself (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are a number of reasons why:
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in check.
- You get a bit of moderate physical activity. 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.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters much 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 cognitive ability because:
- You have to use numerous fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing a lot of work. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to accomplish that. There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it offers a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will have 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 kind of real time thinking.
Your level of talent doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re making use of 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. But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has mental health benefits.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anybody else in the pool!
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. How long can you be underwater before it’s time to breathe? Things like that. This is still an excellent mental exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your brain. Also, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
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 practices are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by practicing meditation.
Reading is great for you! And even more than that, it’s fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. In a book, you can travel anywhere, such as outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. Think of all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. In this way, reading activates a huge part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and utilize your imagination when you read.
Consequently, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. Imagination is required to visualize what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
Spend some time each day to build your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as effective as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss managed
Even if you do every little thing correctly, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of cognitive decline. 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 thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Call us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!