It’s not difficult to notice how your body ages over time. You develop wrinkles. Your hair turns gray (or falls out). Your joints begin to stiffen. Your skin becomes a little saggy in places. Maybe you start to detect some fading of your eyesight and hearing. It’s pretty difficult not to see these changes.
But the affect aging has on the mind isn’t always so evident. You may find that you’re having to put significant events on the calendar because you’re having difficulty with your memory. Perhaps you miss significant events or lose your train of thought more often. The trouble is that this kind of mental decline happens so slowly and gradually that you might never notice it. And that hearing decline can be exacerbated by the psychological impact.
As you get older, there are, fortunately, some exercises you can do to help your brain remain sharp. And the good news is, these exercises can be downright enjoyable!
The relationship between hearing and cognition
There are a number of reasons why people will slowly lose their hearing as they age. This can contribute to a higher risk of mental decline. So what is the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss? Research points to a number of invisible risks of hearing loss.
- When you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss, the portion of your brain responsible for sound processing starts to atrophy. The brain might reallocate some resources, but in general, this isn’t great for mental health.
- Untreated hearing loss can easily produce a sense of social separation. Because of this lack of social interaction, you can start to notice cognitive lapses as you withdraw from the outside world.
- Neglected hearing loss can also trigger depression and other mental health concerns. And having these mental health concerns can boost an associated risk of mental decline.
So is dementia the outcome of hearing loss? Well, not directly. But cognitive decline, including dementia, will be more likely for an individual who has neglected hearing loss. Managing your hearing loss can significantly limit those risks. And, enhancing 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 enhance cognitive function
So how do you accomplish giving your brain the workout it needs to strengthen cognitive function? 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 fruits and vegetables can be extremely fulfilling all on its own (it’s also a delicious hobby). Your cognition can be enhanced with this unique mix of hard work and deep thinking. Here are some reasons why:
- Gardening releases serotonin which can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- As you’re working, you will have to think about what you’re doing. You have to analyze the situation using planning and problem solving skills.
- You get a bit of modest physical activity. Improved blood flow is good for your brain and blood flow will be improved by moving buckets around and digging in the ground.
The fact that you get healthy fruits and vegetables out of your garden is an added bonus. Of course, not all gardens need to be food-focused. 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 a cool clay pot! It’s the process that matters when it comes to exercising the brain, not as much the specific medium. Because your critical thinking skills, imagination, and sense of aesthetics are developed by partaking in arts and crafts (sculpting, painting, building).
Arts and crafts can be good for your cognition because:
- It requires the use of fine motor skills. Even if it feels like it’s happening automatically, lots of work is being carried out by your nervous system and brain. Over the long run, your cognitive function will be healthier.
- You need to manage sensory input in real time and you will need to engage your imagination to do that. This requires a lot of brain power! You can stimulate your imagination by participating in these unique brain exercises.
- You have to stay focused on what you’re doing while you do it. You can help your mental process remain clear and flexible by engaging in this type of real time thinking.
Your talent level doesn’t really make a difference, whether you’re painting a work of art or working on a paint-by-numbers. What matters is that you’re using your imagination and keeping your mind sharp.
Going for a swim can help you stay healthy in a number of ways! Plus, a hot day in the pool is always a great time. But swimming isn’t only good for your physical health, it also has mental health benefits.
Any time you’re in the pool, you need to think a lot about spatial relations when you’re swimming. Obviously, slamming into somebody else in the pool wouldn’t be a good thing.
Your mind also needs to be aware of rhythms. When will you need to come up for a breath of air when you’re under water? That sort of thing. This is still an excellent cognitive exercise even if it’s going on in the back of your mind. And mental decline will advance more slowly when you participate in physical exercise because it helps get more blood to the brain.
Spending some peaceful alone time with your mind. Meditation can help calm down your thoughts (and calm your sympathetic nervous system at the same time). These “mindfulness” meditation methods are designed to help you focus on your thinking. Meditation can help:
- Help you learn better
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
Put simply, meditation can help provide you with even more awareness of your mental and cognitive faculties.
It’s good for you to read! And even more than that, it’s fun. A book can take you anywhere according to that old saying. In a book, you can travel everywhere, including outer space, the ancient world, or the bottom of the ocean. When you’re following along with a story, creating landscapes in your imagination, and mentally conjuring up characters, you’re using lots of brain power. In this way, reading activates a massive part of your brain. Reading isn’t possible without engaging your imagination and thinking a lot.
Hence, one of the very best ways to sharpen the mind is reading. Imagination is needed to envision what’s going on, your memory to follow along with the plot, and when you complete the book, you get a satisfying dose of serotonin.
What you read doesn’t actually matter, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, so long as you devote some time every day reading and building your brainpower! And, for the record, audiobooks are basically as good as reading with your eyes.
Manage your hearing loss to improve cognitive risks
Disregarded hearing loss can raise your risk of cognitive decline, even if you do everything right. Which means, even if you garden, swim, and read, you’ll still be fighting an uphill battle, unless you manage your hearing loss.
When you do get your hearing treated (usually thanks to a hearing aid or two), all of these enjoyable brain exercises will help increase your cognition. Improving your memory, your thinking, and your social skills.
Are you dealing with hearing loss? Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam and reconnect to life!