As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to get stiff. Some drooping of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a bit. These indicators are tough to miss.
But it’s more difficult to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you’re needing to note significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Maybe you miss important events or lose your train of thought more frequently. But sadly, you may not even notice this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological impact.
Luckily, there are a few 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 utterly fun!
The connection between cognition and hearing
The majority of people will gradually lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). This can contribute to a higher risk of mental decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of cognitive decline? Research reveals a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you have untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this is not very good for cognitive health.
- A feeling of social isolation is frequently the outcome of untreated hearing loss. This isolation means you’re conversing less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, 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 challenges.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be significantly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
Increasing cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to strengthen cognitive function? Well, like any other part of your body, the amount and type of exercise you do go a long way. So here are some fun ways to develop your brain and increase your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be exceptionally satisfying all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). A unique combination of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. This takes place for several reasons:
- You get a little modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving buckets of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- You have to think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You have to assess the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The reality that you get healthy fruits and vegetables 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
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 you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that counts when it comes 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 few reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- You have to use numerous fine motor skills. And while that might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing lots of work. Over the long run, your mental function will be healthier.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have to engage your imagination to do that. This requires a lot of brain power! There are a few activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it provides a unique kind of brain exercise.
- You will need to keep your attention engaged in the exercise you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and flexible.
Your level of talent doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. The most important thing is keeping your brain sharp by stimulating your imagination.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t just good for your physical health, it also has mental health benefits.
Whenever 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? That kind of thing. Even if this type of thinking is happening in the background of your mind, it’s still very good mental exercise. And mental decline will progress more slowly when you participate in physical exercise 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). These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are designed to help you concentrate on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
In other words, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
Reading is great for you! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take anywhere. In a book, you can travel anywhere, such as outer space, the ancient world, 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 lots of brain power. This is how reading engages a huge part of your brain. You’re forced to think quite a bit 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 happening, and you get a sweet dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
Spend 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. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Treat your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Even if you do everything correctly, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of cognitive decline. But if you don’t get 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 improve once you have your hearing loss addressed (usually with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing test.