It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin begins to get some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to get stiff. Your skin becomes a little saggy in places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both start to diminish a little. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But the affect getting older has on the mind isn’t always so obvious. You might acknowledge that your memory isn’t as strong as it used to be and that you have to start noting significant dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more often. The difficulty is that this kind of cognitive decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you might never notice it. For those with hearing loss, the psychological consequence can frequently exacerbate this decline.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And the good news is, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
What is the link between hearing and mental cognition
The majority of individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they get older (for a wide variety of reasons). This can contribute to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are several hidden risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has neglected hearing loss. Occasionally, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this is not great for your cognitive health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily result in a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re conversing less, socializing less, and spending more time by yourself, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Mental health issues and depression can be the result of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health issues can boost the corresponding risk of mental decline.
So is dementia the result of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly decreased by getting hearing loss treated. And, boosting your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
Enhancing mental function
So, how can you be sure to enhance 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 some enjoyable ways to exercise your brain and improve your sharpness.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruits is a delicious and satisfying hobby. Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are some reasons why:
- You get a little modest 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.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to use planning skills, problem solving skills, and examine the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- Anxiety relief and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health problems including depression and anxiety at bay.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, you can grow a lot of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody no matter the artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can get started with pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that is important when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the particular medium. 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 cognition because:
- You have to use many fine motor skills. And while that may feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing lots of work. That kind of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to engage your imagination to do that. A lot of brain power is needed to achieve that. You can activate your imagination by engaging in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. This type of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Your talent level doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. The most relevant thing is keeping your mind sharp by engaging your imagination.
Taking a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (especially when it’s so unrelentingly hot outside). And while it’s obviously good for your physical health, there are a few ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Whenever you’re in the pool, you need to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re 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 be underwater before it’s time to breathe? Things like that. Even if this type of thinking is occurring in the background of your mind, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you get involved in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. As your thoughts become calm, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. These “mindfulness” meditation practices are made to help you focus on your thinking. As a result, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
In other words, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And it’s also really fun. 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. Consider all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or visualizing characters. A large portion of your brain is involved 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 by reading. You have to utilize your memory to keep an eye on the story, your imagination to visualize what’s going on, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you finish your book!
Spend some time every day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Even if you do every little thing right, neglected hearing loss can keep increasing your risks of mental decline. But if you don’t have 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 treated (normally with hearing aids).
Are you suffering from hearing loss? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam and reconnect to life!