As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. Your skin begins to develop some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints begin to get stiff. Your skin becomes a little droopy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both begin to diminish a little. It’s pretty hard not to notice these changes.
But the affect getting older has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You may find that you are having to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more often. But sadly, you may not even notice this slow onset. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently exacerbate this decline.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. Even better, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
What’s the link between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older. The risk of mental decline will then increase. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of cognitive decline? There are a number of hidden risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has neglected hearing loss. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this is not very good for mental health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. Because of this lack of social connection, you can begin to detect cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also trigger depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health problems can boost the corresponding risk of cognitive decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can considerably lessen those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Enhancing mental function
So how do you accomplish giving your brain the workout it needs to improve cognitive function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So here are a few fun ways to exercise your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very satisfying all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are several reasons why:
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems like depression and anxiety in check.
- You get a bit of modest physical exercise. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
The fact 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
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. 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 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 several 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 done by your nervous system and brain. Over the long haul, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is required to accomplish that. You can stimulate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original work of art, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. What counts is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to jump into the pool (especially when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone 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? That sort of thing. This is still a good mental exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your brain. Plus, 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.
Just some time for you and your mind. Meditation can help settle 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:
- 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 great for you to read! And even better than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go everywhere, like outer space, the ancient world, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. In this way, reading engages a massive part of your brain. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
Hence, one of the very best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. Imagination is required to picture 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 actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you take a little time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your danger of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. But if you don’t get your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be a difficult fight.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss addressed (typically with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing test.