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 begin to get stiff. Your skin gets a little droopy in places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a bit. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You may find that you are having to put important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Maybe you miss important events or lose your train of thought more frequently. The difficulty is that this sort of mental decline happens so slowly and gradually that you might never notice it. For those with 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 clear and healthy as you age. And you may even have some fun!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older. The risk of mental decline will then increase. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several hidden risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain might assign some resources, but overall, this is not great for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily result in a sense of social separation. As a result of this lack of social connection, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Mental health problems and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And an associated chance of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But untreated hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be decreased even more by boosting your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative management can go a long way.
Strengthening cognitive function
So how do you go about giving your brain the workout it needs to improve cognitive function? Well, the good news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So increase your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and satisfying hobby. Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. 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. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be increased by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
The fact that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, not all gardens need to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wishes!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be appreciated by anybody regardless of artistic ability. Something like a simple popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters a lot less than the process. That’s because arts and crafts (painting, 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:
- You need to use numerous fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing a lot of work. That type of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to utilize your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a ton of brain power! There are a few activities that activate your imagination in exactly this way, so it provides a unique type of brain exercise.
- You will have to keep your attention engaged in the task you’re doing. You can help your cognitive process remain clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re creating a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. The most important thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a lot of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering 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 cognitive health.
Your brain needs to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
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 excellent cognitive exercise even if it’s going on in the background of your mind. Also, physical exercise of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow down mental decline.
Just a little time for you and your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. Sometimes known as mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Improve your attention span
- Help you learn better
Essentially, meditation can help give you even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! And even better than that, it’s fun. There’s that old saying: a book can take anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that is involved in creating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. A huge portion of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a great deal and use your imagination when you read.
Consequently, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is by reading. Imagination is needed to picture what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you allocate time every day reading and strengthening your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Manage your hearing loss to reduce cognitive risks
Neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. But if you don’t get your hearing loss treated, even if you do all of these things, it will still be a difficult fight.
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? Contact us today to schedule a hearing test and reconnect to life!