It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. You develop wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Some sagging of the skin starts to happen in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a bit. These signs are hard to miss.
But the affect getting older has on the mind isn’t always so evident. You may find that you are needing to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But regrettably, you may not even recognize this gradual onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently exacerbate this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. Even better, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
What’s the connection 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? There are several silent risk factors according to research.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this is not very good for your mental health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re talking less, socializing less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Improving mental function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to strengthen cognitive function? Well, the good news is that your brain is the same as any other part of the body: you can always achieve improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So increase 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). A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are several reasons why:
- You need to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You get a little modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving containers of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
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
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that counts with regard 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 few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You have to use numerous fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, a lot 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 run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to engage your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to achieve that. There are a few activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the exercise you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
Going for a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. This is still an excellent mental exercise even if it’s going on in the background of your brain. Plus, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
Spending some quiet alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these practices are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
In other words, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s great for you to read! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the distant 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 creating characters, you’re using lots of brain power. In this way, reading engages a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and use your imagination when you read.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. Imagination is required to visualize what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a fulfilling dose of serotonin.
Spend some time every day to strengthen your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Improve your cognition by having your hearing loss managed
Disregarded hearing loss can increase your danger of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you manage your hearing loss.
When are able to have your hearing managed (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!