As your body ages, it’s not hard to notice the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to get stiff. Your skin gets a bit droopy in places. Maybe you begin to detect some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But the affect getting older has on the mind isn’t always so obvious. You might find that you’re needing to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. 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 may never realize it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can frequently exacerbate this decline.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And the good news is, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
The connection between hearing and cognition
There are numerous reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they age. 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.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing begins to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. Due to this lack of social interaction, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also contribute to depression and other mental health problems. And the corresponding chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for a person who has untreated hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can substantially reduce those risks. And those risks can be decreased even more by enhancing your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative management can go a long way.
Increasing cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to strengthen cognitive function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other part of the body: you can always achieve improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So here are some fun ways to develop your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be extremely fulfilling all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are some reasons why:
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
- You get a little modest physical exercise. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. 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. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- It requires the 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 run, your mental function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have to engage your imagination to do that. 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 offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your talent level doesn’t really matter. What counts 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, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are a few 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 swimming in the pool. Obviously, slamming into someone else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before you need to breathe? Things like that. This is still a good mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the background of your mind. And mental decline will progress more slowly when you participate in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending a little quiet alone time with your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by practicing meditation.
Reading is good for you! And even more than that, it’s fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the distant 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. This is how reading activates a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thoughts. You have to utilize your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
Take some time every day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Even if you do every single thing correctly, untreated 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 are able to have your hearing treated (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!