It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Some sagging of the skin starts to occur in certain places. Maybe you begin to notice some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty difficult not to see these changes.
But it’s harder to see how growing older impacts your mind. You might find that you’re having 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 unfortunately, you might not even notice this slow onset. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can frequently worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And you might even have some fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
There are numerous reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older. This can contribute to a higher risk of mental decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the chances of cognitive decline? There are a number of hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this isn’t very good for cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also bring about depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health concerns can increase an associated risk of cognitive decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for an individual who has untreated 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. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to improve cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to increase your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the good news is that your brain is like any other part of the body: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So here are some fun ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a tasty and gratifying hobby. Your cognition can be improved with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are several reasons why:
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You get a bit of moderate physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving bags of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens need to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or perhaps you can make a really cool 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 partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You need 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. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to engage 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 kind of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by participating in this type of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot day 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 mental health.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. Obviously, slamming into somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is going on in the background of your mind, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. And mental decline will progress more slowly when you take part in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some quiet solo time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
Put simply, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is good for you! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that goes into generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. A huge portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. You have to use your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a pleasant dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
Spend some time each day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
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 struggling uphill, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
When you do get your hearing treated (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.