It’s easy to observe how your body ages over time. You develop wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints begin to stiffen. Some sagging of the skin begins to occur in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a little. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But the affect getting older has on the mind is not always so apparent. You might find that you are needing to note significant 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. The difficulty is that this sort of mental decline happens so slowly and gradually that you may never detect it. For those who have hearing loss, the psychological effects can often worsen this decline.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you get older. Even better, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
What is the connection between hearing and mental cognition
The majority of people will slowly lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). The risk of mental decline will then increase. So, why does loss of hearing increase the risk of mental decline? There are several hidden risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when someone has neglected hearing loss. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this isn’t very good for your cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is often the result of untreated hearing loss. Because of this lack of social connection, you can begin to detect cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also contribute to depression and other mental health concerns. And an associated chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly lowered by getting hearing loss treated. And, enhancing your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Increasing mental function
So, how can you be sure to develop your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the great news is that your brain is the same as any other part of the body: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So boost your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be very rewarding all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique mix of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also increase your cognitive function. Here are some reasons why:
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation making use of planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Gardening involves moderate physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt 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 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
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that is important with regard to exercising the brain, not as much the particular medium. Because your critical thinking abilities, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a number of reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- You need to make use of numerous fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long run.
- 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 accomplish that. There are a number of activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your mind engaged in the activity you’re doing. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by engaging in this kind of real time thinking.
Your level of talent doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re creating a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to jump into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health benefits.
Your brain needs 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 safe.
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before you need to breathe? That kind of thing. Even if this kind of thinking is happening in the background of your brain, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you take part in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these practices are designed to help you concentrate on what you’re thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
You can become even more mindful of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
Reading is great for you! And even more than that, it’s really enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. In a book, you can go everywhere, including outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, manifesting landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. A huge portion of your brain is involved when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a lot and utilize your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the very best ways to sharpen the mind is by reading. You have to use your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to picture what’s going on, and you get a pleasant dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you allocate time every day reading and building your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your danger of mental decline, even if you do everything correctly. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, 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 treated (usually with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing assessment.