It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints start to stiffen. Some drooping of the skin starts to occur in certain places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a bit. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You may notice that your memory isn’t as strong as it used to be and that you need to start writing essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The trouble is that this type of mental decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological impact.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The relationship between hearing and cognition
The majority of people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). The risk of mental decline will then increase. So, why does hearing loss increase the danger of mental decline? There are several hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this is not very good for your cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Neglected hearing loss can also result in depression and other mental health issues. And the corresponding chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can significantly reduce those risks. And those risks can be decreased even more by increasing your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to improve cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to improve your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So here are a few enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and increase your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and gratifying hobby. A unique combination of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance 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 such as depression and anxiety in check.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to utilize planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- Gardening involves modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving buckets of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, not all gardens need to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wishes!
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can get started with pottery and make an awesome 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.
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognitive ability because:
- You need to make use of many fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing a lot of work. Over the long haul, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to achieve that. There are a few activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly 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. 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 isn’t really relevant. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
Going for a swim can help keep you healthy in a number of ways! Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. Obviously, colliding with someone else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still an effective cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your mind. Also, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending a little silent alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are made to help you focus on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
In other words, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is good for you! And even better than that, it’s fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. In a book, you can go everywhere, such as outer space, the ancient world, or the bottom of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. A big portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a great deal and utilize your imagination when you read.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thoughts. You have to utilize your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to picture what’s happening, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you take a little time every day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as effective as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss treated
Even if you do everything right, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental 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.
When are able to have your hearing treated (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Contact us today to schedule a hearing test and reconnect to life!