As your body gets older, it isn’t difficult to notice the changes. You develop wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your knees begin to be a little more sore. Some sagging of the skin begins to happen in certain places. Perhaps you begin to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. It’s pretty difficult not to notice these changes.
But the affect aging has on the mind is not always so obvious. You may notice that your memory isn’t as strong as it once was and that you have to begin noting important dates on your calendar. Perhaps you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more frequently. But sadly, you might not even notice this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological impact.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy as you age. And you might even have some fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
The majority of people will slowly lose their hearing as they age (for a wide variety of reasons). This can result in a higher risk of mental decline. So what is the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss? There are a number of silent risk factors as revealed by research.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the part of your brain responsible for sound processing begins to atrophy. The brain may reallocate some resources, but overall, this is not very good for mental health.
- Neglected hearing loss can easily produce 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 problems and depression can be the outcome of neglected hearing loss. And having these mental health concerns can boost the corresponding danger of cognitive decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, not directly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can substantially reduce those risks. And those risks can be decreased even more by boosting your overall brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to enhance cognitive function
So, how can you be certain to develop your cognitive function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, as with 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 exercise your brain and increase your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits can be very rewarding all on its own (it’s also a tasty hobby). A unique combination of deep thinking and hard work, gardening can also enhance your cognitive function. Here are a number of reasons why:
- You have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have to utilize planning skills, problem solving skills, and examine the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- You get a bit of modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the ground or moving containers of soil around, the exercise you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As an added bonus, you get healthy fruits and vegetables from your hobby. Of course, not all gardens need to be focused on food. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts can be enjoyed by anyone no matter the artistic ability. You can make a simple sculpture using popsicle sticks. Or you can get started with pottery and make an awesome clay pot! It’s the process that counts when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the specific medium. That’s because arts and crafts (drawing, sculpting, building) tap into your imagination, your critical thinking skills, and your sense of aesthetics.
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will strengthen cognition:
- You have to make use of lots of 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 run.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will need to employ your imagination to do that. This involves a lot of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by engaging 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 type of real time thinking.
Your talent level 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.
Taking a swim can help keep you healthy in a number of ways! Plus, a hot afternoon in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has cognitive health advantages.
Whenever 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. When will you need to come up to breathe when you’re under water? That sort of thing. This is still a good cognitive exercise even if it’s occurring in the background of your brain. And cognitive decline will advance more slowly when you take part in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation practices are designed to help you focus on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
Reading is good for you! And it’s also quite enjoyable. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. The floor of the ocean, the distant past, outer space, you can travel everywhere in a book. 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 massive part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a great deal.
Consequently, one of the best ways to improve the mind is by reading. You have to use your memory to keep an eye on 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 develop your brain power by doing some reading, regardless of whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as effective as reading with your eyes.
Treat your hearing loss to lessen cognitive risks
Even if you do every single thing correctly, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase your risks of mental 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 get better once you have your hearing loss addressed (usually with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss a problem for you? Reconnect your life by contacting us today for a hearing assessment.