It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. You develop wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to be a little more sore. Your skin gets a little saggy in places. Maybe you start to notice some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But it’s harder to see how growing older affects your mind. You may find that you’re needing to note important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. But unfortunately, you might not even notice this slow onset. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And you might even have some fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of cognitive decline? There are several silent risk factors according to research.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain that processes sound begins to atrophy. The brain may assign some resources, but overall, this isn’t great for mental health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the consequence of untreated 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.
- Neglected hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health problems. And an associated chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can significantly limit those risks. And those risks can be decreased even more by boosting your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
Increasing cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to increase your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the good news is that your brain is like any other part of the body: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So here are a few enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be exceptionally fulfilling 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. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- Gardening involves modest physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving buckets of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns including depression and anxiety in check.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to assess 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 a lot 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 you can take up pottery and make an awesome clay pot! It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the specific medium. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, 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:
- 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 haul, 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. A lot of brain power is required to accomplish that. There are a few activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Your level of talent doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re creating a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. The most important thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so sweltering hot outside). And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you have to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. 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 to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is happening in the background of your brain, it’s still great mental exercise. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you take part in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just some time for you and your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. These “mindfulness” meditation methods are made to help you focus on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
Essentially, meditation can help give you even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s great for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. In a book, you can go anywhere, including outer space, the ancient world, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using lots of brain power. In this way, reading activates a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think quite a bit and utilize your imagination when you read.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to focus your thinking. Imagination is needed to visualize what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
Take some time every day to strengthen your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Even if you do everything correctly, untreated 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.
When you do get your hearing managed (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!