As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. Your skin begins to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to be a little more sore. Your skin gets a little droopy in places. Maybe you start to notice some fading of your eyesight and hearing. These indicators are difficult to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You may observe that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you need to begin noting essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. The trouble is that this type of mental decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you might never realize it. For those who have 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 remain sharp. And you may even have some fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
There are numerous reasons why people will slowly lose their hearing as they age. The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of silent risk factors as revealed by research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has neglected hearing loss. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. 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 trigger depression and other mental health concerns. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more likely for an individual who has neglected hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be seriously reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be reduced even more by boosting your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative management can go a long way.
Increasing mental function
So, how can you be sure to enhance your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So improve your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very satisfying all by itself (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening requires moderate physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation making use of 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
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody no matter the artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that matters when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the specific 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 a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long haul, your mental function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to engage your imagination to do that. This involves a great deal of brain power! There are a few activities that activate 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 exercise you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. The most relevant thing is keeping your mind sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, it’s always fun 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 benefits.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to smash into anybody else in the pool!
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your brain, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. Plus, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow mental decline.
Just a little time for you and your mind. Meditation can help settle your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation methods are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
Essentially, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! And even more than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. In this way, reading engages 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 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 finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
Spend some time each 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!
Treat your hearing loss to reduce cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing right, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss addressed (usually with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.