As your body gets older, it’s not hard to detect the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees start to hurt a little bit more. Some sagging of the skin starts to take place in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both start to fade a bit. These indicators are hard to miss.
But it’s harder to see how aging affects your mind. You might find that you’re needing to note important events on the calendar because you’re having trouble with your memory. Perhaps you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But unfortunately, you may not even detect this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological effects.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can work out your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. And the good news is, these exercises can be utterly enjoyable!
The connection between cognition and hearing
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does loss of hearing increase the danger of mental decline? Research points to a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing begins to atrophy. The brain might assign some resources, but overall, this isn’t great for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social separation. Because of this lack of social connection, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health issues can boost an associated risk of mental decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can significantly limit those risks. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can minimize those risks even more. Think of it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to improve cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it requires to improve mental function? Well, the good news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always achieve improvement, it simply requires a little exercise. So boost your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and satisfying hobby. Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. This takes place for a number of reasons:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to assess the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- Gardening involves 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 soil.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. 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 out of popsicle sticks. Or maybe you can make a nice clay mug on a pottery wheel. With regard to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are a few reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. Even if it seems like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. That type of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This involves a lot of brain power! There are a number of activities that stimulate your imagination in just this way, so it offers a unique type of brain exercise.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. You can help your cognitive process stay clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or create your own original fine art piece, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. What matters is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a lot of ways that swimming can keep you healthy. Plus, it’s always fun to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering hot outside). But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has mental health benefits.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re swimming in the pool. After all, you don’t want to collide with anybody else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before you need to breathe? Things like that. Even if this kind of thinking is going on in the background of your mind, it’s still excellent mental exercise. Plus, physical exercise of any kind can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Just some time for you and your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are designed to help you focus on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
You can become even more aware of your mental faculties by doing meditation.
Reading is good for you! And even better than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The bottom of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally creating characters, you’re using a lot of brain power. A large part of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Hence, one of the best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. Imagination is required to visualize what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a fulfilling dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t really matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you spend some time every day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are essentially as effective as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to reduce cognitive risks
Even if you do every little thing correctly, untreated hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental decline. Which means, even if you swim and read and garden, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you get your hearing loss treated.
When are able to have your hearing managed (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these fun brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!