As your body ages, it’s not hard to notice the changes. You develop wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Your skin gets a little droopy in places. Maybe you start to detect some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These indicators are tough to miss.
But it’s harder to see how aging affects your mind. You may observe that your memory isn’t as good as it once was and that you need to start writing important dates on your calendar. Maybe you miss important events or lose your train of thought more frequently. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you may never notice it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often worsen this decline.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you age. And you may even have a little bit of fun!
The connection between hearing and cognition
Most individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does loss of hearing increase the chances of mental decline? Research points to a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain may assign some resources, but in general, this isn’t great for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social isolation. As a result of this lack of social connection, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also trigger depression and other mental health issues. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can considerably limit those risks. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can decrease those risks even more. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you accomplish giving your brain the workout it requires to improve cognitive function? Well, the great news is that your brain is the same as any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So here are a few fun ways to exercise your brain and increase your sharpness.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruits is a delicious and rewarding hobby. A unique combination of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. This occurs for a number of reasons:
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to utilize planning skills, problem solving skills, and examine the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
- Gardening requires moderate physical exercise. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that matters with regard to exercising the brain, not so much the specific medium. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) cultivate your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- You need to make use of lots of fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That kind of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is needed to accomplish that. You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You will have to keep your mind engaged in the task you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original fine art piece, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. What counts is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. Obviously, slamming into somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before it’s time to breathe? That sort of thing. This is still an effective mental exercise even if it’s occurring in the back of your mind. And mental decline will progress more slowly when you take part in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just some time for you and your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. These “mindfulness” meditation practices are made to help you focus on your thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by practicing meditation.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also really fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. This is how reading activates a huge part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without employing your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. You have to use your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to picture what’s happening, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t actually matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you spend some time each day reading and building your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to reduce cognitive risks
Even if you do everything correctly, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of cognitive decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
When you do get your hearing managed (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help boost your cognition. Improving your memory, your thoughts, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test and reconnect to life!