It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. Your skin starts to develop some wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to stiffen. Your skin gets a little saggy in places. Perhaps you begin to observe some fading of your hearing and eyesight. These signs are difficult to miss.
But the impact aging has on the mind isn’t always so apparent. You may acknowledge that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be and that you have to begin writing significant dates on your calendar. Maybe you miss significant events or forget what you were doing more often. But sadly, you may not even recognize this gradual onset. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological effects.
As you age, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And you might even have some fun!
The link between cognition and hearing
There are numerous reasons why individuals will gradually lose their hearing as they get older. This can result in a higher risk of cognitive decline. So, why does hearing loss increase the risk of cognitive decline? There are a number of silent risk factors according to research.
- There can be atrophy of the part of the brain that processes sound when someone has untreated hearing loss. The brain might reallocate some resources, but overall, this isn’t very good for cognitive health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily lead to a sense of social separation. This isolation means you’re speaking less, interacting less, and spending more time on your own, and your cognition can suffer as a consequence.
- Neglected hearing loss can also contribute to depression and other mental health issues. And having these mental health concerns can boost the corresponding danger of cognitive decline.
So, can hearing loss develop into dementia? Well, indirectly. But untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of mental decline, up to and including dementia. Those risks, however, can be greatly reduced by getting hearing loss treated. And those risks can be reduced even more by boosting your overall brain function or cognition. Look at it as a little bit of preventative medicine.
How to enhance cognitive function
So how do you approach giving your brain the workout it needs to increase mental function? Well, as with any other part of your body, the amount and kind of exercise you do go a long way. So here are a few enjoyable ways to develop your brain and boost your sharpness.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is a tasty and satisfying hobby. Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are several 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 analyze the situation. This gives your brain a great deal of great practice.
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- You get a bit of moderate physical activity. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the soil.
The reality that you get healthy vegetables and fruits out of your garden is an additional bonus. Of course, not all gardens have to be food-focused. You can grow flowers, wild grasses, cacti, or anything your green thumb desires!
Arts and crafts
You don’t need to be artistically inclined to take pleasure in arts and crafts. Something as simple as a popsicle stick sculpture can be fun. Or maybe you can make a really cool clay mug on a pottery wheel. When it comes to exercising your brain, the medium matters much less than the process. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are cultivated 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 carried out 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 lot of brain power! You can activate your imagination by undertaking these unique brain exercises.
- You will need to keep your mind engaged in the activity you’re doing. This type of real time thinking can help keep your cognitive processes limber and versatile.
Whether you get a paint-by-numbers kit or draft your own original work of art, your level of talent isn’t really relevant. The most relevant thing is keeping your brain sharp by engaging your imagination.
There are a number of ways that swimming can keep you 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 cognitive health benefits.
Your brain has to be engaged in things like spatial awareness when you’re in the pool swimming. After all, you don’t want to smash into anyone else in the pool!
Your mind also has to be aware of rhythms. How long can you be underwater before it’s time to breathe? That sort of thing. Even if this kind of thinking is occurring in the background of your brain, it’s still great cognitive exercise. Also, physical activity of any sort can really help get blood to the brain pumping, and that can be good at helping to slow cognitive decline.
Just some time for you and your mind. As your thoughts calm down, your sympathetic nervous system also relaxes. Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these techniques are designed to help you focus on what you’re thinking. In this way, meditation can:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
Essentially, 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. There’s that old adage: a book can take you anywhere. In a book, you can go anywhere, including outer space, ancient Egypt, or the depths of the ocean. Think of all the brain power that is involved in generating these imaginary landscapes, keeping up with a story, or visualizing characters. A big portion of your brain is engaged when you’re reading. You’re forced to think a lot and utilize your imagination when you read.
Hence, one of the best ways to improve the mind is reading. Imagination is needed to envision what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you finish the book, you get a rewarding dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t actually make a difference, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, as long as you spend some time each day reading and building your brainpower! Audiobooks, for the record, work just as well!
Improve your cognition by having your hearing loss treated
Neglected hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. But if you don’t get 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).
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam and reconnect to life!