Sudoku is one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, in large part because of its simplicity. Some numbers, a pencil, and a few grids are all you need. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a pleasant way to pass the hours. It’s an additional bonus that it’s good for your brain.
It’s becoming popular to use “brain workouts” to tackle cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Current studies have demonstrated that hearing aids may be able to provide your brain with a nice little boost in mental stimulation, reducing the advancement of cognitive decline.
What is Cognitive Decline?
Your brain has a truly use-it-or-lose-it disposition. Neural connections will fizzle without proper stimulus. Your brain has to forge and strengthen neural pathways, that’s why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.
There are some things that will accelerate the process that would be a normal amount of cognitive decline associated with aging. Hearing loss, for example, can introduce a really potent danger for your mental health. Two things take place that powerfully impact your brain when your hearing starts to wain:
- You hear less: There’s not as much sound going in to stimulate your auditory cortex (the hearing focus of the brain). This can cause alterations to your brain (in some cases, for example, your brain begins to prioritize visual stimuli; but that isn’t true for everyone). These changes have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline.
- You don’t go out as much: Self isolation is a very unhealthy behavior, but that’s exactly what some individuals do when they suffer from hearing loss. As your hearing loss progresses, it may just seem simpler to stay home to avoid conversation. This can deprive your brain of even more stimulation.
Put together, these two things can cause a significant change in your brain. This mental decline has commonly been connected to loss of memory, trouble concentrating, and (over time) increased danger of mental illness such as dementia.
Is Cognitive Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So, this cognitive decline occurs because your hearing loss is going untreated. And it’s fairly obvious what you need to do to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment treated. In most cases, this means new hearing aids.
The degree to which hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-substantiated. Approximately 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were surveyed by the University of Melbourne. Over 97% of those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months reported a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.
That’s a nearly universal improvement, simply from wearing hearing aids. We can learn a couple of things from this:
- Finding ways to keep your auditory cortex active would be beneficial because stimulation is the key to mental health. As long as you continue to hear (assisted by hearing aids), this major area of your brain will continue to be stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.
- Helping you continue to be social is one of the primary functions of any set of hearing aids. And your brain stays more engaged when you stay social. It’s easier (and more fun) to hang with your friends when you can understand the conversation!
Sudoko is Still a Good Idea
This new study from the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. If you have neglected hearing loss, many studies have shown that using hearing aids can help slow mental decline. The difficulty is that not everybody recognizes that they have hearing loss. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So if you’re feeling forgetful, strained, or even a bit spacier than normal, it might be worth checking with your hearing specialist.
You should still keep doing Sudoko and other brain games. They keep your brain fresh and pliable and give you stronger general cognitive function. Exercising and keeping cognitively fit can be assisted by both hearing aids and brain games.