It’s not difficult to observe how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees begin to hurt a little bit more. Your skin gets a bit droopy in places. Perhaps you begin to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty hard not to notice these changes.
But the impact getting older has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You might find that you’re needing to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing important events. But unfortunately, you might not even notice this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
As you get older, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And the good news is, these exercises can be absolutely enjoyable!
The connection between hearing and cognition
The majority of individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older (for a number of reasons). The risk of cognitive decline will then increase. So, why does hearing loss increase the chances of cognitive decline? There are a number of hidden risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this is not very good for your mental health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the result of untreated hearing loss. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Untreated hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health concerns. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental issues.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Treating your hearing loss can substantially lessen those risks. And those risks can be decreased even more by enhancing your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive function
So, how can you be certain to boost your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So here are a few enjoyable ways to develop your brain and improve your sharpness.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be exceptionally fulfilling all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique combination of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This occurs for several reasons:
- Gardening requires moderate physical activity. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
- You need to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to apply planning skills, problem solving skills, and analyze the situation. This gives your brain a lot of great practice.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an added 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 anyone regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or maybe you can make a nice 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. 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 cognitive ability because:
- It requires the use of 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 mental function will be healthier.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. A lot of brain power is required to achieve that. There are a few activities that activate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the activity you’re doing. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original fine art piece, your talent level doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to jump into the pool (especially when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your mental health.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. Obviously, colliding with somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be safe.
You also have to think about your rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? That kind of thing. This is still an effective cognitive exercise even if it’s happening in the background of your mind. Plus, physical exercise of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down cognitive decline.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help settle your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation methods are designed to help you focus on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- 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.
It’s great for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old saying: a book can take anywhere. In a book, you can travel anywhere, such as 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 creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. A big portion of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. Reading isn’t feasible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
Hence, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. Imagination is required to envision what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you take a little time each day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Better your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your danger of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. 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.
Your social skills, your thinking, and your memory and cognition will get better once you have your hearing loss addressed (normally with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.