It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Some sagging of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Maybe you begin to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These signs are tough to miss.
But the affect aging has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You may notice that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you have to begin noting significant dates on your calendar. Maybe you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more often. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline happens so slowly and gradually that you might never notice it. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you get older. And you may even have a little bit of fun!
The connection 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 what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of silent risk factors according to research.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t great for your mental health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re speaking less, socializing less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can significantly reduce those risks. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to increase mental function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So improve your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruits is a tasty and satisfying hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. This happens for a number of reasons:
- Gardening involves moderate physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt 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.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to utilize planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
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
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody no matter the artistic ability. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with 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. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. That kind of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to engage your imagination to do that. This requires a great deal of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by engaging in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. What matters is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has mental health advantages.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, slamming into someone else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before you need to breathe? That kind of thing. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your brain, it’s still very good mental exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you participate in physical activity 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 relaxes. Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these practices are designed to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can travel anywhere, including outer space, ancient Egypt, or the bottom of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using lots of brain power. This is how reading engages a huge 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 by 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, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing right, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of cognitive decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss dealt with (usually with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!