As your body gets older, it’s not hard to detect the changes. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to stiffen. Some drooping of the skin starts to take place in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a little. These signs are tough to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how growing older affects your mind. You might find that you’re needing to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But regrettably, you may not even notice this slow onset. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. Even better, these exercises can be downright fun!
The connection between cognition and hearing
Most individuals will slowly 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 risk of cognitive decline? There are a number of hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when somebody has neglected hearing loss. The brain may assign some resources, but in general, this isn’t very good for cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re talking less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- 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 issues.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can significantly lessen those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Increasing cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to boost your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So boost your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be incredibly satisfying all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also improve your cognitive function. This happens for a number of reasons:
- Gardening involves modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving buckets of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues such as depression and anxiety at bay.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody no matter the artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognitive ability because:
- You have to make use of many fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. Over the long haul, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This involves a lot of brain power! There are a number of activities that activate your imagination in exactly this way, so it offers a unique type of brain exercise.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing as you do it. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, 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 brain sharp.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! 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 cognitive health benefits.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anybody else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? Things like that. This is still a good mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your brain. Plus, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending some silent solo time with your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
Reading is great for you! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. In a book, you can travel everywhere, including outer space, the ancient world, or the bottom of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or conjuring characters. A big part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, one of the best ways to improve the mind is reading. Imagination is required to picture what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a fulfilling dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t really make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you devote some time every day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as good as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Even if you do everything right, neglected 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 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 increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.