As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to stiffen. Some drooping of the skin starts to occur in certain places. Perhaps you start to detect some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty difficult not to see these changes.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you are having to note important events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently exacerbate this decline.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
What’s the link between hearing and mental cognition
The majority of people will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). The risk of mental decline will then increase. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of hidden risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this is not great for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the consequence of untreated hearing loss. This isolation means you’re speaking less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for somebody who has untreated hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can significantly reduce those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen 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 increase mental function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So here are some enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and increase your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and gratifying hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening involves modest physical exercise. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to apply planning skills, problem solving skills, and examine the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that is important with regard to exercising the brain, not as much the particular medium. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognitive ability because:
- You have to use numerous fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, lots 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 need to engage your imagination to do that. This requires a great deal of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your mind engaged in the task you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by stimulating your imagination.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
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 anybody 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? That sort of thing. Even if this kind of thinking is occurring in the background of your brain, it’s still excellent cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending a little quiet alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these methods are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And even better than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can travel anywhere, like outer space, ancient Egypt, or the bottom of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. In this way, reading engages a massive part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is reading. Imagination is required to envision 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 build your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you like. And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as good as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing right, 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 get your hearing loss treated.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss dealt with (typically with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.