It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Your skin becomes a little droopy in places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a little. These signs are tough to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You may find that you’re having to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you might never notice it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can often exacerbate this decline.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. And you may even have some fun!
The connection between hearing and cognition
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of mental decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of mental decline? Research points to several invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound begins to atrophy. The brain may reallocate some resources, but in general, this is not very good for cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re speaking less, socializing less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Untreated hearing loss can also trigger depression and other mental health issues. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more probable for an individual with neglected hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can considerably limit those risks. And those risks can be reduced even more by enhancing your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to improve mental function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some enjoyable ways to develop your brain and boost your sharpness.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruits is a tasty and rewarding hobby. A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also improve your cognitive function. Here are several reasons why:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns including depression and anxiety at bay.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to use planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
- Gardening requires modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving bags of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make an awesome clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You have to make use of lots of fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This requires a great deal 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 will need to keep your mind engaged in the task you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. What counts is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are a few ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone else in the pool!
You also have to think about your rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before it’s time to breathe? That kind of thing. This is still an excellent mental exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your brain. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you participate in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending a little quiet solo time with your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. Sometimes known as mindfulness meditation, these methods are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
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 go everywhere, such as outer space, the ancient world, or the depths 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 feasible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. You have to utilize your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to picture what’s happening, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
Spend 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 enjoy. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to reduce cognitive risks
Neglected hearing loss can increase your danger of mental 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 get your hearing loss treated.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss dealt with (typically with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Call us today to schedule a hearing test and reconnect to life!