As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. You get wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Your skin becomes a little saggy in places. Perhaps you start to observe some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty hard not to notice these changes.
But the impact getting older has on the mind is not always so obvious. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as strong as it used to be and that you need to start noting important dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. But sadly, you may not even recognize this gradual onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. And the good news is, these exercises can be utterly fun!
The link between hearing and cognition
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the risk of cognitive decline? There are a number of silent risk factors as revealed by research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain may reallocate some resources, but overall, this isn’t great for mental health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the result of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re talking less, socializing less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health issues can increase the corresponding risk of cognitive decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more likely for an individual with neglected hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be greatly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to enhance cognitive function
So, how can you be certain to improve 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 increase your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a delicious and gratifying hobby. A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. This occurs for a number of reasons:
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening involves moderate physical activity. 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.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems like depression and anxiety in check.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens have 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 anyone regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or maybe 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. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will strengthen 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 cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This requires a lot of brain power! You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, whether you’re creating a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a lot 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 cognitive health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, colliding with someone else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
You also have to think about your rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before you need to breathe? That kind of thing. This is still an effective mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your mind. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you take part in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some silent alone time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
Put simply, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. In a book, you can go anywhere, including outer space, ancient Egypt, or the bottom 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 huge portion of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a lot and utilize your imagination when you read.
Consequently, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is by reading. You have to use your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to visualize what’s going on, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
Spend some time each day to build your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you like. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Improve your cognition by having your hearing loss managed
Even if you do every single thing right, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you manage your hearing loss.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss addressed (normally with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam and reconnect to life!