As your body gets older, it’s not hard to notice the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to get stiff. Some drooping of the skin starts to occur in certain places. Maybe you begin to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s harder to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you are needing to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more often. The difficulty is that this type of mental decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. And you may even have a little bit of fun!
What’s the link between hearing and mental cognition
The majority of people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of silent risk factors according to research.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing begins to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the outcome of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re talking less, socializing less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Untreated hearing loss can also bring about depression and other mental health issues. And having these mental health problems can increase the corresponding risk of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can considerably limit those risks. And those risks can be lowered even more by increasing your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you accomplish giving your brain the workout it requires to improve cognitive function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always achieve improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So here are some fun ways to develop your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be exceptionally satisfying all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are a few reasons why:
- Gardening involves moderate physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You need to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
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
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or perhaps you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognitive ability because:
- You need to use lots of fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing lots of work. That kind of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is required to accomplish that. There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and versatile.
Your talent level doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re creating a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to jump into the pool (especially 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 mental health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anybody else in the pool!
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before it’s time to breathe? That sort of thing. This is still a good cognitive exercise even if it’s going on in the back of your mind. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you participate in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just some time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). Sometimes known as mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
Essentially, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And even better than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go anywhere, like outer space, the ancient world, or the bottom of the ocean. Think of all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. 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.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. Imagination is required to visualize what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
Take some time every day to build your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can increase your danger of mental decline, even if you do everything right. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss addressed (typically with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!