As your body gets older, it’s not hard to notice the changes. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. You start to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Some sagging of the skin begins to take place in certain places. Maybe your eyesight and your hearing both begin to diminish a little. These indicators are tough to miss.
But the affect aging has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You might find that you are having to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Perhaps you miss important events or forget what you were doing more often. The difficulty is that this sort of cognitive decline comes about so slowly and gradually that you might never detect it. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
As you age, there are, luckily, some exercises you can do to help your brain stay sharp. And you might even have some fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
There are numerous reasons why individuals will slowly lose their hearing as they age. This can lead to a higher risk of mental decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of cognitive decline? Research points to several hidden risks of hearing loss.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when somebody has untreated hearing loss. The brain might assign some resources, but in general, this is not great for mental health.
- A feeling of social separation is often the consequence of neglected hearing loss. As a result of this lack of social connection, you can start to detect cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also contribute to depression and other mental health issues. And the corresponding risk of cognitive decline can be increased by these mental challenges.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more probable for an individual who has untreated hearing loss. Managing your hearing loss can considerably limit those risks. And, improving your overall brain health (known medically as “cognition”) can lessen those risks even more. A little preventative management can go a long way.
How to increase cognitive function
So, how can you be sure to increase your cognitive 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 boost your brain’s sharpness by doing some of these fun activities.
Growing 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. This occurs for several reasons:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You get a little moderate physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving buckets of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s good for your brain.
- You need to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to analyze the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
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
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anybody regardless of artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or perhaps you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not so much the specific 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 might feel automatic, your brain and nervous system are truly doing a lot of work. That kind of exercise can keep your cognitive functions healthier over the long haul.
- You have to use your imagination and process sensory inputs in real time. This involves a lot of brain power! You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you do it. This kind of real time thinking can help keep your mental processes limber and versatile.
Your level of talent doesn’t really matter, whether you’re painting 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 number of ways! Plus, it’s always enjoyable to hop into the pool (particularly when it’s so sweltering 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.
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 collide with anyone else in the pool!
You also have to pay attention to your rhythms. How long can you stay underwater before it’s time to breathe? Things like that. Even if this kind of thinking is happening in the background of your mind, it’s still very good cognitive exercise. And cognitive decline will progress more slowly when you take part in physical activity because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Just a little time for you and your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also calms down. These “mindfulness” meditation techniques are designed to help you focus on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
Put simply, meditation can help present you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And even better than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can go anywhere, like 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 a lot of brain power. In this way, reading engages a huge part of your brain. You’re forced to think a lot and use your imagination when you read.
As a result, reading is one of the most ideal ways to sharpen your thinking. You have to utilize your memory to keep track of the story, your imagination to picture what’s happening, and you get a nice dose of serotonin when you complete your book!
What you read doesn’t actually matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you devote some time every day reading and strengthening your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to minimize cognitive risks
Neglected hearing loss can increase 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).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.