It’s easy to observe how your body ages over time. You develop wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints begin to stiffen. Some sagging of the skin starts to take place in certain places. Maybe you begin to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s harder to see how growing older impacts your mind. You might find that you’re having to note important events on the calendar because you’re having issues with your memory. Perhaps you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more often. The trouble is that this sort of mental decline happens so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological effects can frequently exacerbate this decline.
As you age, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. Even better, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
The connection between cognition and hearing
Most people will slowly lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of mental decline. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research reveals a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain might reallocate some resources, but in general, this isn’t very good for cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. Due to this lack of social connection, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also trigger depression and other mental health concerns. And having these mental health issues can boost an associated danger of cognitive decline.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can significantly limit 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.
Strengthening mental function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to strengthen mental function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other part of the body: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So here are some enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very rewarding all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- You get a little modest physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns including depression and anxiety at bay.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
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
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool 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) cultivate 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 seems like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long haul, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a great deal of brain power! There are a few activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing as you do it. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and flexible.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your talent level doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is keeping your mind sharp by stimulating your imagination.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so sweltering hot outside). And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still an effective cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the back of your mind. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you participate in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little 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 techniques are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
Reading is good for you! And it’s also quite enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go anywhere, such as 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 a lot of brain power. In this way, reading activates a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, reading is one of the most ideal ways to sharpen your thoughts. Imagination is needed to visualize what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
Take some time every day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing correctly, untreated hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. But if you don’t have your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be a difficult fight.
When are able to have your hearing treated (usually because of a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!