It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to develop some wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to get stiff. Your skin becomes a little saggy in places. Maybe you begin to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These indicators are tough to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging impacts your mind. You may observe that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you need to start writing significant dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more frequently. But sadly, you may not even notice this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. And the good news is, these exercises can be absolutely enjoyable!
What’s the link between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older. The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research points to a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain that processes sound starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily result in a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re speaking less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Untreated hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health concerns. And the corresponding chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can significantly limit those risks. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to improve mental function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always achieve improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So improve your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and gratifying hobby. A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are several reasons why:
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in check.
- Gardening involves modest physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving buckets of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anybody no matter the artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can take up pottery and make an awesome clay pot! With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot 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).
Here are a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You have to make use of lots of fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing a lot of work. Over the long run, your mental 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 accomplish that. You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original work of art, your talent level doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
There are a number of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. 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 needs 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 needs to be aware of rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before it’s time to breathe? Things like that. Even if this kind of thinking is happening in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent cognitive exercise. Also, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
Spending a little silent solo time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are made to help you focus on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
In other words, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is good for you! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. 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. A large 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 very best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. You have to use your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to visualize what’s happening, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
What you read doesn’t really make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you take a little time every day reading and strengthening your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Improve your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Even if you do everything right, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better 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!