As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. Your skin begins to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to get stiff. Some sagging of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both begin to fade a bit. It’s pretty hard not to notice these changes.
But it’s harder to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you’re having to note important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The difficulty is that this type of cognitive decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you may never notice it. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain clear. Even better, these exercises can be utterly fun!
What is the connection between hearing and mental cognition
There are numerous reasons why people will gradually lose their hearing as they age. This can contribute to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this isn’t great for mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the outcome of neglected hearing loss. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be seriously decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be decreased even more by boosting your overall brain function or cognition. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you accomplish giving your brain the workout it needs to strengthen mental function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So improve your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a tasty and gratifying hobby. A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also improve 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 apply planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening involves modest physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving containers 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, not all gardens have to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb desires!
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that is important with regard to exercising the brain, not as much the particular medium. 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:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing lots of work. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to engage your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is required to achieve that. You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing while you do it. This type of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and flexible.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your talent level isn’t really relevant. The most important thing is keeping your mind sharp by engaging your imagination.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to jump 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 has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone else in the pool!
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent mental exercise. Plus, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
Just a little time for you and your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. These “mindfulness” meditation methods are made to help you concentrate on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And even better than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go anywhere, like outer space, ancient Egypt, or the bottom of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or visualizing characters. This is how reading activates a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. You have to use your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to picture what’s happening, and you get a pleasant dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you spend some time each day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Even if you do everything correctly, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase 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 a difficult fight.
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 suffering from hearing loss? Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!