I am an Audiologist focusing on the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. This means that I am constantly looking for ways to help my patients keep their mind sharp.

Over the next few weeks and months we are being forced to completely change our lifestyle. Some of us are out of work. Others are forced inside, into complete isolation. But what can we be doing over this period to help prevent cognitive decline?

The number 1 thing you can do over this period.

The number one message that I want to convey to all my patients and those out there who have a hearing aids – WEAR YOUR HEARING AIDS FULL TIME DURING THIS PERIOD. 

That is from the moment you wake up in the morning until to you do to bed at night. (12 hours or more.)

It is easy to think that because you are not going out to see anyone, you don’t need to have them in. However, the main reason why we need to wear our devices full time is to enable adequate stimulation to the auditory areas of the brain. This process doesn’t change simply because we are in lock down.

So first things first – keep those devices in, keep that brain stimulation occurring, to help keep the mind sharp.

What else other than managing our hearing loss?

Sticking to my theme of making sure we come out the other side of the global health crisis with our health and wellbeing intact, here are some other ideas about how you can keep your mind sharp over this period.

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

A healthy amount of sleep is essential for Brain Plasticity – the brain’s ability to adapt, change and grow. A lot of the processes of storing memory of what we have learnt during the day occurs at night. If we don’t get enough sleep, our brain has a difficult time remembering that information into the future.  Overnight sleep also reenergises the body’s cells and clears waste from the brain. The recommended minimum amount of sleep is 7 hours per night, with significant impacts to the brain and our ability to function occurring after only a few nights without that many hours.

2. Learn a New Skill

If there was ever a time to pick up a new skill it would be during this Global Health Crisis. Research shows us that learning something new and/or stepping outside your comfort zone forces the brain to make new neural connections. It helps to strengthen the brain. Myelin is a substance that acts as an insulator around neural tissue. It allows for electrical messages to travel much faster from one place to the other through out the body, including the brain. Additional research is starting to show us that when we learn new skills and have new experiences we increase the amount of white matter, which get its name from the amount of myelin covered axons (nerve fibres) in our brain. This may help with brain plasticity and essentially helps strengthen the neural pathways of our brain.

⁠3. Enjoy Dark Chocolate, in Moderation.

If you’re having a sugar craving over the lock down period try switching to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains zinc, iron and magnesium. The high levels of cocoa within dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals and prevent oxidative stress – which contribute to the natural processes of ageing. 

4. Make fish a regular part of your diet

Dig out the recipe books or head online to find some recipes to cook fish.Cold water, oily fish like sardines, salmon and trout are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for brain health. ⁠The Gourmet Traveller’s have a full list of Salmon Recipes to try. (Learn more) Not only are you helping strengthen your brain by trying something new, you are cooking delicious food that is great for brain health.

5. Switch Hands

For some of us, time is less of a limit over this period. Make a point to switch hands. Yes it may take you a little more time than normal to tasks like brushing your teeth, using the computer mouse with your other hand or opening the door. However, getting the brain to complete complex tasks like these with your other hand helps the brain learn new skills. ⁠⠀

6. Participate in regular exercise or yoga.

Not only is physical a great way to manage stress over this period but it can help improve your memory. Physical activity when performed regularly for 20mins have shown to increase the size of your hippocampus, the area of your brain associated with forming new memories. ⁠⠀

7. BrainHQ.com & Memory Exercises.

I have spoken alot about BrainHQ both in my seminars and in other blogs. Practicing recalling facts, using programs like brain HQ have been proven to sharpen the mind. Brain HQ has 100 research articles written about it. It help exercise your memory, improves you ability to pay attention, improve’s your brain’s processing speed and can even help you hear better in background noise. Over this period we have time. So just like you’d use a personal trainer to train your body, it’s time we start thinking about training our minds. Schedule in 3 x 20mins sessions into your week to start training your brain.

Final Thoughts:

Over this period it is my intention to help my patients with hearing loss as much as I can to improve their ability to hear, share tips on how to improve your listening setting at home to make it easier to hear things like the TV. I am creating a webinar series with 10 modules that aim to give my people actionable tips as well as some more information on the connection between hearing and brain health. To register your interest please send an to katherine@neuaudio.com.au and Kat will put you on our growing list.

Finally – To all those out there with hearing loss, if there was one thing I wanted you to take away with you from this blog it is to wear your devices FULL TIME over this period. To ensure we maintain that brain stimulation and help prevent cognitive decline.

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