As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees begin to hurt a little bit more. Some sagging of the skin starts to happen in certain places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a little. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But the impact getting older has on the mind is not always so obvious. You might notice that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you need to begin noting essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss important events or lose your train of thought more frequently. But sadly, you might not even notice this gradual onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently exacerbate this decline.
Fortunately, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. And you may even have some fun!
What is the link between hearing and mental cognition
The majority of people will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the chances of cognitive decline? There are a number of hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound begins to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. Due to this lack of social connection, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also trigger depression and other mental health concerns. And an associated chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be decreased even more by enhancing your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
Enhancing cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to increase your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the good news is that your brain is like any other part of the body: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So increase your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and satisfying hobby. A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This takes place for several reasons:
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening involves 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 good for your brain.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb desires!
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a few reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You need to use many fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing lots of work. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to engage your imagination to do that. This requires a ton of brain power! There are a few activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your talent level isn’t really relevant. What matters is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). 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. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still an excellent mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your mind. Also, physical exercise of any sort can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow mental decline.
Spending some peaceful solo time with your mind. Meditation can help settle your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation practices are made to help you concentrate on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s great for you to read! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, creating 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 feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to focus your thinking. Imagination is required to visualize 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 allocate time each day reading and building your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Even if you do every little thing correctly, untreated 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 a difficult fight.
When are able to have 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 thinking, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing test.