As your body ages, it isn’t difficult to detect the changes. You get wrinkles. You begin to lose your hair or it turns grey. Your joints start to stiffen. Some sagging of the skin starts to occur in certain places. Perhaps your eyesight and your hearing both begin to fade a bit. It’s pretty hard not to see these changes.
But it’s harder to see how growing older affects your mind. You may notice that your memory isn’t as good as it once was and that you have to start noting essential dates on your calendar. Maybe you find yourself spacing out more and missing significant events. But sadly, you might not even notice this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be worsened by the psychological impact.
As you age, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And you may even have some fun!
What’s the link between hearing and mental cognition
There are a number of reasons why people will gradually lose their hearing as they age. The risk of mental decline will then increase. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research points to a number of hidden risks of hearing loss.
- 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 great for mental health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social isolation. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can begin to notice cognitive lapses as you disengage from the outside world.
- Untreated hearing loss can also trigger depression and other mental health problems. And having these mental health concerns can increase an associated danger of cognitive decline.
So, can hearing loss turn into dementia? Well, indirectly. But neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Managing your hearing loss can substantially limit those risks. And those risks can be reduced even more by enhancing your general brain function or cognition. A little preventative treatment can go a long way.
How to improve cognitive function
So, how can you be certain to improve your mental function and give your brain the workout it needs? Well, the great news is that your brain is like any other body part: you can always accomplish improvement, it simply calls for a little exercise. So increase your brain’s sharpness by engaging in some of these fun activities.
Cultivating your own vegetables and fruit is a delicious and rewarding hobby. A unique mix of deep thought and hard work, gardening can also improve your cognitive function. This happens for several reasons:
- Relief of anxiety and a little bit of serotonin. This can help keep mental health concerns like depression and anxiety in check.
- As you’re working, you will have 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.
- Gardening involves modest physical activity. Whether it’s digging around in the dirt or moving containers of soil around, the activity you get when gardening is enough to get your blood pumping, and that’s healthy for your brain.
The fact that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb wants!
Arts and crafts
You don’t have to be artistically inclined to enjoy arts and crafts. You can make a simple sculpture out of popsicle sticks. Or you can take up pottery and make a cool clay pot! It’s the process that counts with regard to exercising the brain, not so much the particular medium. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by doing arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Here are several reasons why doing arts and crafts will improve cognition:
- It requires making use of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, a lot of work is being done by your nervous system and brain. That kind of exercise can keep your mental functions healthier over the long haul.
- You need to process sensory input in real time and you will have to engage your imagination to do that. This requires a ton of brain power! You can activate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your mind engaged in the task you’re doing. 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 creating a work of art or doing a paint-by-numbers. What counts is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your brain sharp.
There are a number of ways that swimming can help you stay healthy. Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t just 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 in the pool swimming. Obviously, colliding with someone else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
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 type of thinking is happening in the background of your brain, it’s still excellent 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.
Spending some quiet alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system too). These “mindfulness” meditation methods are made to help you concentrate on your thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
- Help you learn better
You can become even more conscious of your mental faculties by getting involved in meditation.
It’s great for you to read! And it’s also quite enjoyable. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. The bottom of the ocean, the ancient past, outer space, you can travel anywhere in a book. Think of all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or conjuring characters. A big part of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a lot and utilize your imagination when you read.
Consequently, one of the very best ways to improve the mind is reading. Imagination is required to picture what’s going on, your memory to keep up with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
Spend some time every day to build your brain power by doing some reading, whether it’s fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, or whatever you prefer. Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Better your cognition by getting your hearing loss treated
Even if you do every single thing right, neglected hearing loss can continue to increase 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 dealt with (typically with hearing aids).
Is hearing loss an issue for you? Reconnect your life by calling us today for a hearing exam.