As your body ages, it’s not hard to notice the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Your skin gets a little droopy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both begin to diminish a little. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you’re having to put important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. But regrettably, you might not even detect this gradual onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often worsen this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. Even better, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
The connection between cognition and hearing
The majority of people will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of mental decline? There are several hidden risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t very good for your mental health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Neglected hearing loss can also bring about depression and other mental health issues. And an associated chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more probable for an individual who has untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be significantly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be decreased even more by boosting your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to enhance your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the good news is that your brain is the same as any other body part: you can always achieve improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So here are some enjoyable ways to develop your brain and increase your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very satisfying all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are some reasons why:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns like depression and anxiety at bay.
- Gardening involves modest physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving buckets of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone no matter the artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the particular medium. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a number of reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- You need to use lots of 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. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to accomplish that. You can stimulate your imagination by undertaking these unique brain exercises.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing while you do it. This type of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and flexible.
Your level of talent doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has mental health benefits.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is happening in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent cognitive exercise. Also, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending a little silent solo time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. Sometimes known as mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And even more than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. This is how reading engages a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
Hence, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is by reading. You have to utilize 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!
Take some time every day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as effective as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss addressed
Neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of mental 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 a difficult fight.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss treated (typically with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!