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 hurt a little bit more. Some drooping of the skin starts to occur in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both begin to fade a bit. These indicators are difficult to miss.
But the affect getting older has on the mind is not always so apparent. You may find that you’re having to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The difficulty is that this kind of cognitive decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
Fortunately, there are some ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. Even better, these exercises can be absolutely fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
The majority of people will slowly 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 mental decline? There are a number of silent risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has neglected hearing loss. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t very good for your mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re conversing less, socializing less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health issues can boost an associated risk of cognitive decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more likely for someone who has untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be seriously decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be lowered even more by enhancing your overall brain function or cognition. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it needs to strengthen cognitive function? Well, as with 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 fruit is a delicious and gratifying hobby. A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This takes place for several reasons:
- Gardening involves moderate physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The fact that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an additional bonus. 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 regardless of artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- You need to make use of 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. Over the long haul, your mental function will be healthier.
- You have to make use of your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is needed to achieve that. There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and flexible.
Your talent level doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so sweltering hot outside). And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you have to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, colliding with somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your brain, it’s still great mental exercise. 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 solo time with your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
Essentially, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! And even better than that, it’s fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. In this way, reading activates a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is by reading. Imagination is needed to picture 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.
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you allocate time every day reading and building your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss managed
Even if you do every single thing right, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing 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 get your hearing loss treated.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss treated (normally with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing exam.