As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. You get wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Some drooping of the skin starts to take place in certain places. Perhaps you begin to notice some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These indicators are hard to miss.
But the affect aging 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 need to start writing important dates on your calendar. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But unfortunately, you may not even detect this slow onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
Fortunately, there are some ways that you can work out your brain to keep it clear and healthy as you get older. Even better, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
What’s the connection between hearing and mental cognition
Most people will gradually lose their hearing as they age (for a number of reasons). This can lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does loss of hearing increase the risk of cognitive decline? Research reveals a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the portion of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. Sometimes, it’s put to other uses, but in general, this is not very good for your mental health.
- A feeling of social separation is frequently the result of untreated hearing loss. Due to this lack of social connection, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also lead to depression and other mental health issues. And an associated risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, indirectly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more likely for someone with untreated hearing loss. Managing your hearing loss can significantly limit those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive 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 type of exercise you do go a long way. So improve your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a delicious and gratifying hobby. Your cognition can be improved with this unique combination of hard work and deep thinking. Here are a few reasons why:
- As you’re working, you will need to think about what you’re doing. You have to apply 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 issues including depression and anxiety in check.
- You get a bit of modest physical exercise. 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 healthy for your brain.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, you can grow lots of other things besides food (herbs, flowers cacti).
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or maybe you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that is important when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the specific medium. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition 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 cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to make use of your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a ton of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your mental process stay clear and flexible by participating in this kind of real time thinking.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re making use of your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Going for a swim can help keep you healthy in a number of ways! Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. And while it’s clearly good for your physical health, there are some ways that swimming can also be good for your cognitive health.
Any time you’re in the pool, you have to do a lot of thinking about spatial relations when you’re swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before you need to breathe? That kind of thing. This is still an excellent mental exercise even if it’s going on in the background of your mind. Plus, physical activity of any kind can really help get blood to the brain going, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Spending some quiet alone time with your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also gets calm. These “mindfulness” meditation practices are made to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- 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 good for you! And even better than that, it’s really enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can travel anywhere, such as outer space, ancient Egypt, or the bottom of the ocean. Consider all the brain power that goes into creating these imaginary landscapes, following a story, or conjuring characters. A big 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, reading is one of the best ways to focus your thinking. 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.
Spend some time every day to develop your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you enjoy. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your risk of mental 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 (usually with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Contact us today to schedule a hearing test and reconnect to life!