It’s easy to observe how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to develop some wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to stiffen. Some sagging of the skin starts to occur in certain places. Maybe you begin to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But it’s harder to see how growing older impacts your mind. You might notice that your memory isn’t as good as it once was and that you need to start noting significant dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological impact.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you get older. And you might even have some fun!
The connection between cognition and hearing
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does loss of hearing increase the chances of mental decline? Research points to a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. The brain might assign some resources, but overall, this isn’t great for mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently 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 outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health problems can boost the corresponding risk of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, not directly. But untreated 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, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
Improving cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to increase mental function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So improve your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very rewarding all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. Here are some reasons why:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
- You get a bit of moderate physical exercise. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. 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 using popsicle sticks. 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).
Here are a number of reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use 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 haul, your mental function will be healthier.
- You have to make use of your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a ton of brain power! There are a number of activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your mind engaged in the task you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and flexible.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original work of art, your talent level doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are a few 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. After all, you don’t want to collide with anybody else in the pool!
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That sort of thing. This is still a good mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your brain. Also, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
Spending a little peaceful solo time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
In other words, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that goes into generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. This is how reading activates a huge part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and use your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is by reading. Imagination is needed to envision what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you spend some time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, even if you do everything right. 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.
When you do get your hearing managed (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.