It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to be a little more sore. Your skin becomes a little saggy in places. Perhaps you begin to notice some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But it’s harder to see how aging impacts your mind. You may find that you are needing to note important events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Perhaps you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more frequently. But sadly, you may not even recognize this slow onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological impact.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And the good news is, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
What is the link between hearing and mental cognition
The majority of people will gradually 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 connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research reveals a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound begins to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this is not very good for your mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social isolation. Due to this lack of social interaction, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also contribute to depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health issues can increase the corresponding risk of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more likely for an individual with untreated hearing loss. Managing your hearing loss can substantially limit those risks. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it needs to increase mental function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So improve your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be incredibly enjoyable all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are several reasons why:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to utilize planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- You get a bit of 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 added bonus. 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. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking abilities, 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:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing a lot of work. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This involves a ton of brain power! There are a number of activities that activate 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 task you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. The most important thing is keeping your mind sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
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 smash into anybody else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? That sort of thing. This is still a good cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your mind. 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 some peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by practicing meditation.
Reading is good for you! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. A big portion of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, reading is one of the most ideal ways to focus your thinking. Imagination is required to envision what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding 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 like. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Even if you do everything right, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of cognitive 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 addressed (normally with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.