It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to get some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Your skin gets a bit droopy in places. Maybe you start to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These signs are difficult to miss.
But it’s harder to see how growing older impacts your mind. You may find that you’re needing to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. But sadly, you may not even detect this slow onset. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. And you may even have some fun!
What is the connection between hearing and mental cognition
The majority of people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can contribute to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the chances of cognitive decline? There are several hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain may reallocate some resources, but in general, this is not great for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more likely for a person who has untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be seriously lowered by getting hearing loss treated. 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.
Increasing cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it needs to increase 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 fun ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be exceptionally rewarding all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also improve your cognitive function. This occurs for a number of reasons:
- You get a bit of modest physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving containers of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease 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 examine the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, you can grow a lot 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 as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that matters 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 partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- You need to make use of numerous fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing lots of work. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have 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 exactly this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by participating in this type of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. The most important thing is keeping your mind sharp by stimulating your imagination.
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 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 in the pool swimming. Obviously, colliding with someone else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? That kind of thing. Even if this type of thinking is happening in the background of your mind, it’s still very good mental exercise. Plus, physical exercise of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Just some time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
In other words, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! 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 travel everywhere, like outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. A huge part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without employing your imagination and thinking a lot.
As a result, reading is one of the most ideal ways to sharpen your thoughts. Imagination is required to picture 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.
Take some time each day to develop 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 good as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. 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 managed (usually thanks to 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.
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Call us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!