As your body gets older, it’s not hard to detect the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to be a little more sore. Your skin becomes a little saggy in places. Perhaps you start to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These signs are tough to miss.
But the affect getting older has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as good as it once was and that you need to start writing important dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But unfortunately, you might not even notice this slow onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can frequently worsen this decline.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you get older. And you may even have some fun!
The relationship between hearing and cognition
There are a number of reasons why individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age. This can contribute to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research reveals a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. The brain may reallocate some resources, but overall, this is not very good for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the consequence of neglected hearing loss. Due to this lack of social connection, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And an associated chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for somebody who has neglected hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be seriously decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to strengthen cognitive function? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So increase your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a delicious and rewarding hobby. A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. Here are a number of reasons why:
- You get a bit of modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving containers of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems like depression and anxiety at bay.
As an added bonus, you get healthy vegetables and fruits from your hobby. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool clay pot! With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a number of reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. 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! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Your talent level doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anybody else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before it’s time to breathe? Things like that. This is still an excellent mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your brain. Also, physical exercise of any kind 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 calms down. These “mindfulness” meditation methods are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
In other words, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! And it’s also really fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can travel anywhere, such as outer space, the ancient world, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using lots of brain power. A big part of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. You’re forced to think quite a bit and use your imagination when you read.
Consequently, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is reading. You have to use your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to visualize what’s happening, and you get a pleasant dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t really make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you devote some time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as good as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing correctly, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of cognitive decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
When are able to have 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 thoughts, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing exam.