It’s easy to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin starts to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Some sagging of the skin starts to happen in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both begin to fade a little. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But the affect aging has on the mind is not always so obvious. You might find that you’re needing to note important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more often. But sadly, you may not even notice this slow onset. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological consequence can often exacerbate this decline.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. And you may even have a little bit of fun!
The connection between cognition and hearing
There are a number of reasons why individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they age. This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with neglected hearing loss, the part of your brain that processes sound begins to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but generally speaking, this is not great for your cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social isolation. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health concerns can increase an associated danger of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly lowered by getting hearing loss treated. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Increasing mental function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it requires to increase mental 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 fun ways to develop your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and satisfying hobby. A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are a number of reasons why:
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to use planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening requires modest physical exercise. Increased blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody no matter the artistic ability. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or you can get started with pottery and make an awesome clay pot! It’s the process that is important when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the specific medium. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- You need to use many fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long run.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This requires a lot of brain power! You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You will have to keep your mind engaged in the activity you’re doing. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original work of art, your level of talent doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re utilizing your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Taking a swim can help you stay healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s obviously 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 have to think a lot 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. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? Things like that. This is still a good mental exercise even if it’s going on in the back of your brain. And mental decline will progress more slowly when you take part 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 at the same time). Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these methods are made to help you focus on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
Reading is great for you! And it’s also quite enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. Consider all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or visualizing characters. In this way, reading engages a massive part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and use your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. You have to utilize your memory to monitor the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, 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 each day reading and strengthening your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to reduce cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing correctly, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be struggling uphill, unless you manage your hearing loss.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will improve once you have your hearing loss treated (normally with hearing aids).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing test.