As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to be a little more sore. Your skin becomes a bit saggy in places. Maybe you begin to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These indicators are difficult to miss.
But the affect getting older has on the mind isn’t always so obvious. You may observe that your memory isn’t as strong as it once was and that you have to begin writing important dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more often. The trouble is that this kind of cognitive decline occurs so slowly and gradually that you may never notice it. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you get older. Even better, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
The link between hearing and cognition
The majority of people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of mental decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of cognitive decline? There are several hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain that processes sound starts to atrophy. The brain might reallocate some resources, but in general, this is not very good for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is often the consequence of untreated hearing loss. As a result of this lack of social interaction, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, indirectly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more likely for someone who has untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be significantly lowered by getting hearing loss treated. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to increase cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to boost your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with 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.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruits is a delicious and gratifying hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are some reasons why:
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns like depression and anxiety at bay.
- You get a little modest physical exercise. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that is important with regard to exercising the brain, not as much the particular medium. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- You need to use lots of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. Over the long run, your mental function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. This requires a lot of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by participating in this type of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re creating a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, slamming into someone else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? Things like that. Even if this kind of thinking is going on in the background of your brain, it’s still great cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these methods are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
Reading is great for you! And even better than that, it’s fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or visualizing characters. A large part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. You have to utilize your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to visualize what’s going on, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
Take some time every day to strengthen your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Even if you do everything correctly, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
When are able to have your hearing managed (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam and reconnect to life!