As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. You develop wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Your skin becomes a bit saggy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both begin to fade a bit. These signs are difficult to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how growing older impacts your mind. You may find that you are needing to put important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. The trouble is that this kind of cognitive decline occurs so slowly and gradually that you might never notice it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. Even better, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
The connection between hearing and cognition
The majority of people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the chances of mental decline? Research reveals several invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t great for your mental health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the consequence of untreated hearing loss. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Untreated hearing loss can also bring about depression and other mental health issues. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for a person who has untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be greatly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be decreased even more by boosting your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it requires to improve 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 vegetables and fruit is a tasty and gratifying hobby. A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to use planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
- Gardening requires moderate 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.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The fact that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens need to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can take up pottery and make an awesome clay pot! It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the particular medium. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, 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 really doing a lot of work. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a great deal of brain power! There are a few activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by participating in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your talent level doesn’t really matter. The most relevant thing is keeping your mind sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you 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 a few ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. Obviously, colliding with someone else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you be underwater before it’s time to breathe? That kind of thing. This is still an effective cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your mind. Plus, physical exercise of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down cognitive decline.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are made to help you focus on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also really fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. In this way, reading activates a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and utilize your imagination when you read.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. Imagination is required to picture what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you devote some time every day reading and building your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your danger of mental decline, even if you do everything right. 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 because of a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.