As your body gets older, it’s not hard to detect the changes. You develop wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to stiffen. Some drooping of the skin starts to happen in certain places. Maybe you start 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 affects your mind. You may find that you are having to put important events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more often. But unfortunately, you might not even detect this gradual onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And you may even have some fun!
The connection between hearing and cognition
There are a number of reasons why people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older. The risk of mental decline will then increase. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of 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. The brain may reallocate some resources, but in general, this isn’t very good for mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is often the result of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re speaking less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Untreated hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health problems. 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 neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to increase cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to increase your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some fun ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very fulfilling all on its own (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:
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in check.
- You get a bit of modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving bags of soil around, the activity 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 a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody no matter the artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, 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 make use of many fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long haul, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is needed to accomplish 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. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original fine art piece, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. The most relevant thing is keeping your mind sharp by stimulating your imagination.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). But swimming isn’t only 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. Obviously, colliding with somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? That sort of thing. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your brain, it’s still great mental exercise. Also, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow mental decline.
Spending a little silent solo time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). Sometimes known as mindfulness meditation, these methods are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
Essentially, 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 quite enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go everywhere, like outer space, ancient Egypt, or the bottom of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that goes into generating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or conjuring characters. This is how reading activates a massive part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without employing your imagination and thinking a lot.
Consequently, one of the best ways to improve the mind is by reading. 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.
What you read doesn’t really 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!
Treat your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing right, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of cognitive decline. But if you don’t have your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be an uphill battle.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss addressed (usually with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.