As your body gets older, it’s not hard to detect the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to stiffen. Your skin gets a bit saggy in places. Maybe you start to detect some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s more difficult to see how growing older affects your mind. You might find that you’re needing to note important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But sadly, you may not even recognize this slow onset. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often exacerbate this decline.
As you age, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain clear. And you might even have some fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
There are numerous reasons why people will slowly lose their hearing as they age. This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research points to several invisible risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has neglected hearing loss. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this isn’t great for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of untreated hearing loss. As a result of this lack of social connection, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also result in depression and other mental health concerns. And having these mental health concerns can boost an associated danger of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, not directly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more likely for someone who has neglected hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can considerably limit those risks. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you accomplish giving your brain the workout it needs to increase cognitive function? Well, the good news is that your brain is the same as any other part of the body: you can always achieve improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So here are some fun ways to develop your brain and increase your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be incredibly enjoyable 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. This happens for a number of reasons:
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues such as depression and anxiety at bay.
- Gardening requires modest physical exercise. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
The fact that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an additional 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 enjoy arts and crafts. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. 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 have to use lots of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is needed to achieve that. There are a few activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
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 counts is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are a few ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone else in the pool!
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still a good cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your brain. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending a little peaceful alone time with your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. These “mindfulness” meditation practices are made to help you focus on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s great for you to read! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. In a book, you can go anywhere, like outer space, the ancient world, 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 lots of brain power. A big portion of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Hence, one of the best ways to improve the mind is by reading. You have to use your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you devote some time every day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss addressed
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, even if you do everything correctly. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be struggling uphill, 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 fun brain exercises will help boost 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!