It’s not difficult to observe how your body ages over time. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints start to get stiff. Some drooping of the skin begins to occur in certain places. Maybe you start to notice some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These signs are tough to miss.
But the impact aging has on the mind is not always so evident. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as strong as it once was and that you need to start writing significant dates on your calendar. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But unfortunately, you might not even recognize this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological impact.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. Even better, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several silent risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing begins to atrophy. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t very good for your mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is often the result of neglected hearing loss. This isolation means you’re talking less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Neglected hearing loss can also contribute to depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health problems can boost the corresponding danger of mental decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be lowered even more by boosting your general brain function or cognition. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Strengthening cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it requires to strengthen cognitive function? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So improve your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be very enjoyable all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This happens for several reasons:
- You get a little modest physical activity. Improved 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.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
The fact that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, sculpting, building) cultivate 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 have to use lots 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 run, your mental function will be healthier.
- You have to make use of your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is required to accomplish that. There are a number of activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by participating 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 talent level doesn’t really matter. What counts is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has mental health benefits.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, slamming into someone else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you be underwater before you need to breathe? That sort of thing. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your mind, it’s still great cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are made to help you concentrate on your thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
Reading is great for you! And it’s also really fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. A huge part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think quite a bit and use your imagination when you read.
Consequently, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is by reading. You have to use your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
What you read doesn’t really make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you spend some time each day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Even if you do every single thing right, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, 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 (typically 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!