It’s not difficult to observe how your body ages over time. You get wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to be a little more sore. Some sagging of the skin begins to take place in certain places. Maybe you start to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty difficult not to see these changes.
But the impact aging has on the mind is not always so evident. You might notice that your memory isn’t as good as it once was and that you need to begin writing significant dates on your calendar. Maybe you miss important events or forget what you were doing more frequently. But unfortunately, you may not even notice this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
Luckily, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you get older. And the good news is, these exercises can be absolutely enjoyable!
The relationship between cognition and hearing
The majority of people will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the connection 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 portion of your brain that processes sound begins to atrophy. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this isn’t great for cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re talking less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a result.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health issues can boost an associated danger of mental decline.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can considerably reduce those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to enhance cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to boost your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So boost your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very fulfilling all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also improve your cognitive function. This happens for several reasons:
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
- You get a bit of modest physical activity. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health issues like depression and anxiety at bay.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that matters with regard to exercising the brain, not so much the particular medium. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are a few reasons why getting involved in arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You need to use many fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are really doing lots of work. Over the long haul, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to accomplish that. There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a number of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always fun 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 mental health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you need to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re 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? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is going on in the background of your mind, it’s still great cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you take part in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending a little peaceful alone time with your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. These “mindfulness” meditation practices are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
Essentially, meditation can help give you even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s great for you to read! And even better than that, it’s really enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. In this way, reading engages a huge part of your brain. You’re forced to think a great deal and use your imagination when you read.
As a result, reading is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking. Imagination is required to envision what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
Take some time each day to strengthen your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you like. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Improve your cognition by getting your hearing loss treated
Even if you do everything correctly, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss dealt with (typically with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.