As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to get stiff. Some drooping of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Perhaps you start to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These indicators are tough to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as good as it once was and that you need to begin noting essential dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. The trouble is that this sort of cognitive decline occurs so slowly and gradually that you might never realize it. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological impact.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. And the good news is, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
The link between hearing and cognition
There are a number of reasons why individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age. The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the chances of mental decline? Research reveals a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you have neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this is not great for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is often the result of untreated hearing loss. Due to this lack of social connection, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also result in depression and other mental health issues. And having these mental health problems can boost an associated danger of mental decline.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But mental decline, including dementia, will be more probable for a person who has neglected hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can significantly reduce those risks. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it needs to improve mental function? Well, the great news is that your brain is the same as any other body part: you can always achieve improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So increase your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be extremely satisfying all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique combination of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are some reasons why:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening involves modest physical activity. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased 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 using planning and problem solving skills.
As an added bonus, you get healthy vegetables and fruits 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 take pleasure in arts and crafts. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make an awesome clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a few reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve 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 cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to engage your imagination to do that. This requires a lot of brain power! You can activate your imagination by undertaking these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re creating a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by stimulating your imagination.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to collide with anybody else in the pool!
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. How long can you be underwater before it’s time to breathe? That sort of thing. Even if this kind of thinking is going on in the background of your brain, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. Also, physical exercise of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation practices are made to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
Essentially, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old saying: a book can take anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. This is how reading activates a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think a great deal and use your imagination when you read.
Consequently, reading is one of the most ideal ways to focus your thinking. You have to use your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to visualize what’s going on, and you get a pleasant dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
Take some time each day to build your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to reduce cognitive risks
Even if you do every little thing correctly, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of cognitive decline. 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.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss treated (normally with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.