As your body gets older, it’s not hard to detect the changes. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Some sagging of the skin begins to occur in certain places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a little. These signs are hard to miss.
But the affect aging has on the mind is not always so evident. You might find that you are having to note important events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more often. But unfortunately, you may not even recognize this gradual onset. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can often worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
The majority of people will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several silent risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has neglected hearing loss. The brain might assign some resources, but in general, this is not great for mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the outcome of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re speaking less, socializing less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Untreated hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health problems. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be seriously reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
Strengthening mental function
So, how can you be sure to increase your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some fun ways to develop your brain and increase your sharpness.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and gratifying hobby. A unique combination of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This occurs for a number of reasons:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- As you’re working, you will have 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 lot of great practice.
- You get a bit of moderate physical exercise. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- 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. Over the long run, your mental function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This involves a lot of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by undertaking these unique brain exercises.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing while you do it. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original fine art piece, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is keeping your mind sharp by engaging your imagination.
Taking 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 sweltering hot outside). 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.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, colliding with somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
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. This is still a good cognitive exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your mind. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you take part in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just some time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
Put simply, 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 really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. 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, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. In this way, reading activates a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think a great deal and utilize your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is reading. Imagination is needed to picture what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
Take some time each day to strengthen your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you like. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss addressed
Even if you do every little thing right, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental decline. But if you don’t get your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be an uphill battle.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss treated (usually with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam and reconnect to life!