It’s easy to observe how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints start to get stiff. Your skin gets a bit droopy in places. Maybe you start to notice some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These indicators are hard to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you’re needing to note important events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But regrettably, you might not even notice this gradual onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often worsen this decline.
As you age, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay clear. And you might even have a little bit of fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
The majority of individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does loss of hearing increase the danger of mental decline? Research reveals several invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound starts to atrophy. The brain may reallocate some resources, but overall, this is not very good for cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social isolation. This isolation means you’re conversing less, socializing less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Untreated hearing loss can also result in depression and other mental health issues. And having these mental health concerns can increase an associated danger of mental decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more probable for a person with untreated hearing loss. Those risks, however, can be greatly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be reduced even more by improving your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to improve cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to improve your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the good news is that your brain is the same as any other part of the body: you can always achieve improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So here are some fun ways to exercise your brain and increase your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be incredibly enjoyable all by itself (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. This occurs for a number of reasons:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns like depression and anxiety in check.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening requires moderate physical exercise. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving bags of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wishes!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anybody no matter the artistic ability. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make an awesome clay pot! With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot 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 doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing lots of work. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will have to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is required to achieve that. There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by participating in this type of real time thinking.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. Obviously, colliding with somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That sort of thing. Even if this kind of thinking is going on in the background of your mind, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will advance 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 calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
In other words, 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 fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go anywhere, like 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. A large part of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think quite a bit and utilize your imagination when you read.
Consequently, reading is one of the most ideal ways to sharpen your thinking. Imagination is required to visualize what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a fulfilling dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t really make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you devote some time each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by having your hearing loss managed
Even if you do every single thing correctly, 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.
When are able to have your hearing managed (usually because of 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.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing exam.