It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to get stiff. Your skin becomes a bit droopy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a bit. It’s pretty hard not to notice these changes.
But the affect getting older has on the mind is not always so evident. You might find that you’re having to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. The difficulty is that this kind of mental decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you may never realize it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can often worsen this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you get older. And the good news is, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
The link between cognition and hearing
The majority of individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research reveals a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. The brain might assign some resources, but in general, this is not great for mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is often the outcome of untreated hearing loss. Due to this lack of social interaction, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health issues 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, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
Strengthening cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to strengthen cognitive 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 fruits and vegetables can be very rewarding all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be improved with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. This occurs for a number of reasons:
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues like depression and anxiety in check.
- You get a little 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.
- You need to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. 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, not all gardens have 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 take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. That kind of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- 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 required to accomplish that. There are a few activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your mind engaged in the exercise you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your talent level isn’t really relevant. What matters is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a number of ways! Plus, it’s always fun to jump into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anybody else in the pool!
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. This is still an excellent mental exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your brain. Plus, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
Reading is great for you! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. This is how reading activates a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to focus your thoughts. Imagination is required to envision what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
Take some time each day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss addressed (usually with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!