It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to stiffen. Your skin gets a bit droopy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a bit. It’s pretty difficult not to see these changes.
But it’s harder to see how growing older affects your mind. You may find that you’re having to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But unfortunately, you might not even detect this slow onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often exacerbate this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you get older. And the good news is, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
Most individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research reveals several hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain may assign some resources, but overall, this is not great for cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re conversing less, socializing less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health issues can increase an associated risk of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more probable for an individual with untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be greatly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be reduced even more by improving your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to improve cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to develop your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? 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 increase your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be exceptionally rewarding all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. Here are some reasons why:
- You need to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening involves moderate physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving buckets of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, not all gardens need to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb desires!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody regardless of artistic ability. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. 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 (drawing, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a few reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You need to use lots of fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing lots of work. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a great deal of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by engaging in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by participating in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is keeping your brain sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. Obviously, slamming into somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
Your mind also has to be aware of 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 brain, it’s still great cognitive exercise. Also, physical exercise of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down cognitive decline.
Just a little time for you and your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
Put simply, 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 fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. In a book, you can go everywhere, including outer space, the ancient world, or the bottom of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or conjuring characters. A big part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think quite a bit and utilize your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is by reading. Imagination is needed to envision what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a fulfilling dose of serotonin.
Take some time every day to strengthen your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as good as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Disregarded hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, even if you do everything correctly. But if you don’t get your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be an uphill battle.
When are able to have 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 thoughts, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Call us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!