It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Some drooping of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Perhaps you begin to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. These indicators are hard to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging impacts your mind. You might find that you’re having to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. The difficulty is that this sort of mental decline occurs so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often exacerbate this decline.
As you age, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And you may even have some fun!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
Most individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). The risk of mental decline will then increase. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research reveals a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. The brain might assign some resources, but overall, this is not very good for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily result in a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re speaking less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Neglected hearing loss can also result in depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health issues can increase the corresponding risk of mental decline.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can considerably lessen those risks. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Enhancing mental function
So, how can you be sure to boost your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the good news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always achieve improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So improve your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruits is a delicious and satisfying hobby. A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also improve your cognitive function. Here are a number of reasons why:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns like depression and anxiety in check.
- You get a little modest physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits 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 need to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool clay pot! With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing a lot of work. That kind of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This requires a great deal of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by undertaking these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. This kind 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 creating a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. The most important thing is keeping your mind sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has mental health advantages.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. Obviously, colliding with someone 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 happening in the background of your mind, it’s still very good mental exercise. Plus, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending a little peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or visualizing characters. A large part of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
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 follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
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 like. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Even if you do everything correctly, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of cognitive decline. But if you don’t get your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be a difficult fight.
When you do get your hearing treated (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.