As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints start to stiffen. Some sagging of the skin starts to take place in certain places. Perhaps you start to notice some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These signs are difficult to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how growing older affects your mind. You might notice that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you have to start noting important dates on your calendar. Maybe you miss important events or lose your train of thought more frequently. The trouble is that this sort of mental decline occurs so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often exacerbate this decline.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. And you may even have a little bit of fun!
The relationship between hearing and cognition
There are numerous reasons why individuals 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 risk of mental decline? Research reveals a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has neglected hearing loss. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this is not great for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the result of untreated hearing loss. As a result of this lack of social interaction, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health concerns 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 cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can significantly lessen those risks. And those risks can be decreased even more by boosting your general brain function or cognition. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to improve cognitive function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So increase your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruits is a delicious and gratifying hobby. Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems like depression and anxiety at bay.
- You get a little modest physical exercise. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- You need to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
As an added bonus, you get healthy vegetables and fruits from your hobby. 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 like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or perhaps you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that is important when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the particular medium. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You need to use many fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That kind of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long run.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a ton of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your talent level isn’t really relevant. What counts is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
Going for a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has mental health advantages.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you have to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, colliding with someone else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. This is still an excellent cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your brain. And mental decline will advance more slowly when you get involved in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
Put simply, meditation can help give you even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s great for you to read! And even more than that, it’s fun. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or conjuring characters. This is how reading activates a huge part of your brain. You’re forced to think quite a bit and utilize your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is by 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 take a little time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss addressed
Neglected hearing loss can increase your danger of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. But if you don’t have your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be an uphill battle.
When are able to have your hearing treated (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!