As your body ages, it’s not hard to notice the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Your skin gets a bit droopy in places. Maybe you start to notice some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But the affect aging has on the mind is not always so obvious. You might find that you are needing to put important events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Perhaps you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more frequently. The difficulty is that this type of cognitive decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you may never notice it. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. And the good news is, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
The connection between hearing and cognition
There are numerous reasons why people will slowly lose their hearing as they get older. The risk of mental decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the danger 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 untreated hearing loss. The brain may reallocate some resources, but in general, this isn’t very good for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the result of untreated hearing loss. This isolation means you’re speaking less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can substantially reduce those risks. And, boosting 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 increase cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to increase cognitive function? Well, the good news is that your brain is the same as any other part of the body: you can always achieve improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So improve your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be extremely satisfying all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are a number of reasons why:
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to use planning skills, problem solving skills, and examine the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- Gardening requires moderate 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.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As an added bonus, you get healthy vegetables and fruits from your hobby. Of course, not all gardens have 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 no matter the artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with 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 skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing a lot of work. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to engage your imagination to do that. This involves a lot of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by engaging in these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, whether you’re creating a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. 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, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has mental health advantages.
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. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this kind of thinking is going on in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent cognitive exercise. Plus, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending some silent alone time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. These “mindfulness” meditation practices are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
Put simply, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also really fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the ancient 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. A large portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Hence, one of the very best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. You have to utilize your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to visualize what’s going on, 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, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Even if you do every little thing correctly, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you manage your hearing loss.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss treated (normally with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing assessment.