As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. You develop wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to stiffen. Your skin becomes a bit saggy in places. Maybe you start to notice some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These signs are difficult to miss.
But the affect aging has on the mind is not always so evident. You might find that you’re needing to put important events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The difficulty is that this kind of mental decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
What’s the link between hearing and mental cognition
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of mental decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the chances of cognitive decline? There are several silent risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the outcome of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re speaking less, socializing less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health problems can boost the corresponding danger of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for an individual who has neglected hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be greatly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. 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.
How to increase cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it requires to improve cognitive function? Well, the great news is that your brain is the same as any other part of the body: you can always achieve improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So here are a few enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be extremely fulfilling all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. Here are several reasons why:
- You get a bit of moderate 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 good for your brain.
- You need to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to apply planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns including depression and anxiety in check.
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
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a really cool 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 (drawing, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognitive ability because:
- 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. Over the long haul, your mental function will be healthier.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a lot of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your talent level isn’t really relevant. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
Taking a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That kind of thing. Even if this kind of thinking is going on in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent mental exercise. And mental decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical exercise 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 at the same time). These “mindfulness” meditation methods are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by practicing meditation.
It’s great for you to read! 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 generating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or conjuring characters. In this way, reading engages a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and utilize your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is 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 matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you take a little time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as effective as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss addressed
Neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss dealt with (typically with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Call us today to schedule a hearing test and reconnect to life!