It’s easy to observe how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Your skin becomes a bit droopy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a bit. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But the affect aging has on the mind is not always so obvious. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as good as it once was and that you have to begin noting significant dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. The trouble is that this kind of mental decline takes place so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often exacerbate this decline.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you get older. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
There are a number of reasons why people will slowly 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 as revealed by research.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. The brain may assign some resources, but overall, this isn’t very good for cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health problems can boost an associated risk of mental decline.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to enhance cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to develop your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? 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 boost your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a delicious and rewarding hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are several reasons why:
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to apply planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- Gardening requires moderate physical activity. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems such as depression and anxiety at bay.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables 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
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anyone regardless of artistic ability. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can take up pottery and make an awesome clay pot! When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot 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.
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, a lot 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 have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a great deal of brain power! You can activate your imagination by undertaking these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your mind engaged in the activity you’re doing. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Your level of talent 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 engaging your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are a few ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Whenever 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 smash into anybody 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 sort of thing. Even if this kind of thinking is occurring in the background of your mind, it’s still great mental exercise. Also, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending a little silent solo time with your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. Sometimes known as mindfulness meditation, these methods are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
Essentially, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. There’s that old saying: a book can take you anywhere. The floor of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. A big part of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
As a result, reading is one of the most ideal ways to focus your thinking. Imagination is needed to visualize what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a fulfilling dose of serotonin.
Take some time every day to build your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you like. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Even if you do everything right, neglected 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 (typically with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing assessment.