It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to hurt a little bit more. Some drooping of the skin begins to occur in certain places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a little. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But the impact aging 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 difficulty with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The difficulty is that this sort of mental decline happens so slowly and gradually that you might never realize it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can often exacerbate this decline.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain clear. And the good news is, these exercises can be utterly fun!
What is the link between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older. The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the chances of mental decline? There are several silent risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has neglected hearing loss. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t great for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the result of untreated hearing loss. This isolation means you’re talking less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can considerably lessen those risks. 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.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it requires to improve mental function? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So increase your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a delicious and rewarding hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This occurs for a number of reasons:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns including depression and anxiety at bay.
- Gardening requires modest physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation making use of 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
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or you can take up 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 (painting, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are several reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- You need to make use of lots of fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing lots of work. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to engage your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is required to accomplish that. You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is keeping your mind sharp by engaging your imagination.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay 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 in the pool swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone else in the pool!
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still an excellent cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your brain. Also, 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.
Just some time for you and your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- 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 saying: a book can take anywhere. In a book, you can travel everywhere, such as outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. A big part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a great deal and use your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is reading. Imagination is needed to envision what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete 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.
Treat your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Even if you do everything correctly, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase 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.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss treated (usually with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.