As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints start to stiffen. Some sagging of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Maybe you start to observe some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty hard not to notice these changes.
But it’s harder to see how growing older affects your mind. You might find that you are having to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more often. But regrettably, you might not even recognize this slow onset. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
Most individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). The risk of mental decline will then increase. So, why does hearing loss increase the danger of mental decline? There are several hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t great for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the outcome of neglected hearing loss. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health issues can boost an associated danger of mental decline.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can considerably limit those risks. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Enhancing mental function
So, how can you be certain to develop your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the great news is that your brain is the same as any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So increase your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and rewarding hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. This happens for several reasons:
- Gardening requires modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving bags of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As an added bonus, you get healthy vegetables and fruits from your hobby. Of course, not all gardens have to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anybody regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that is important when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the particular medium. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are several reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You have to make use of many fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a lot of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your mind engaged in the exercise you’re doing. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this kind of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a number of ways! Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
Your brain has 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. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still an effective mental exercise even if it’s going on in the back of your brain. Also, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending a little quiet alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
Essentially, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s great for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or visualizing characters. A big part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
Consequently, one of the best ways to improve the mind is by reading. Imagination is needed to picture what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you allocate time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Even if you do everything correctly, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental decline. 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.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss treated (typically with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!