As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. You develop wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints begin to stiffen. Some drooping of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Perhaps you begin to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But the affect aging has on the mind isn’t always so evident. You may find that you’re having to put important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Perhaps you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more frequently. The difficulty is that this kind of cognitive decline happens so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often exacerbate this decline.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
Most individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several silent risk factors according to research.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this is not great for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of untreated hearing loss. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also bring about depression and other mental health issues. And having these mental health concerns can boost an associated risk of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more likely for somebody with untreated hearing loss. Managing your hearing loss can substantially reduce those risks. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
Strengthening cognitive 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 enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be very rewarding all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. Here are some reasons why:
- You get a little modest physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving containers of soil around, the exercise 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.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation utilizing planning and problem solving skills.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb desires!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anybody regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a number of reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long run, your mental function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to achieve that. There are a number of activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Whether you pick up a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your talent level isn’t really relevant. What matters is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
Going for a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, it’s always fun to jump into the pool (especially 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 mental health.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to collide with anyone else in the pool!
You also have to think about your rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before you need to breathe? That sort of thing. This is still an excellent cognitive exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your brain. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you participate in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending a little silent alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes labeled mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s great 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, like outer space, the ancient world, or the depths of the ocean. Think of all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or conjuring characters. A large part of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to focus your thoughts. You have to utilize your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to visualize what’s happening, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
What you read doesn’t actually matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you take a little time every day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss managed
Disregarded hearing loss can increase your danger of mental decline, even if you do everything correctly. 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 managed (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing test.