It’s easy to observe how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to get some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to stiffen. Your skin becomes a bit droopy in places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both begin to fade a bit. These indicators are difficult to miss.
But it’s harder to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you are needing to note important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The trouble is that this type of cognitive decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you might never realize it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you get older. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
There are numerous reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they age. This can contribute to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when somebody has neglected hearing loss. The brain may assign some resources, but in general, this isn’t great for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re speaking less, socializing less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Neglected hearing loss can also result in depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health problems can increase an associated danger of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more probable for a person who has neglected hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can significantly limit those risks. And those risks can be reduced even more by improving your general brain function or cognition. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to increase mental 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 fun ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very fulfilling 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 some reasons why:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems such as depression and anxiety at bay.
- You need to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening involves moderate physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving containers of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
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
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make an awesome clay pot! With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long run, 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 exactly this way, so it offers a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the exercise you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. What matters is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, it’s always fun to jump into the pool (especially when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone 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 effective cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your brain. And mental decline will advance more slowly when you get involved in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some quiet alone time with your mind. Meditation can help settle your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation practices are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
Put simply, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And even better than that, it’s fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. 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 activates a huge part of your brain. You’re forced to think a great deal and utilize your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the best ways to improve the mind is by reading. Imagination is needed to visualize what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
Take some time each day to strengthen 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 basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss managed
Even if you do every little thing right, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing 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.
When you do get your hearing managed (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.