It’s not difficult to observe how your body ages over time. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Some drooping of the skin begins to take place in certain places. Perhaps you begin to notice some fading of your eyesight and hearing. These signs are difficult to miss.
But it’s harder to see how growing older impacts your mind. You may find that you are having to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more frequently. The difficulty is that this type of mental decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And you may even have some fun!
What is the link between hearing and mental cognition
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research points to several hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has neglected hearing loss. The brain might assign some resources, but in general, this isn’t great for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re speaking less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health problems can boost an associated danger of cognitive decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can considerably reduce those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
Improving mental function
So, how can you be sure to develop your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some fun ways to exercise your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very enjoyable all by itself (it’s also a tasty hobby). Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are a few reasons why:
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems like depression and anxiety at bay.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to apply planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- You get a little modest physical exercise. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
The reality 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
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the specific medium. 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 getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing a lot of work. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a ton of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re creating a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
Taking a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
Any time you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, slamming into someone else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
You also have to pay attention to your 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. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you participate in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some peaceful solo time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
Put simply, meditation can help give you even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s great for you to read! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go everywhere, like outer space, the ancient world, or the bottom of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using lots of brain power. This is how reading engages a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. 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 rewarding dose of serotonin.
Take some time each day to build your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you like. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss treated
Even if you do everything right, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase 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 you do get your hearing managed (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help boost 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!