Sudoku is one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, in large part because of its simplicity. All you need to play is some grids, some numbers, and a pencil. A very enjoyable way to pass some hours, for many individuals, is a soduku puzzle book. That it’s a workout for your brain is an added perk.
“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular means of fending off cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Current studies have revealed that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a little boost in mental activation, slowing the progression of mental decline.
What is Mental Decline?
Your brain has a truly use-it-or-lose-it temperament. Without stimulus, neural connections tend to fizzle. Your brain needs 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 connected with aging. An especially potent risk for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. When your hearing begins to decline, two things happen that really affect your brain:
- You hear less: With less sound input, your auditory cortex (the region of your brain responsible for everything hearing-related) gets weakened stimulation. This can cause changes in your brain (in some situations, for instance, your brain begins to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everyone). A higher risk of cognitive decline has been linked to these changes.
- 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. Staying home to escape conversations might seem simpler than going out and feeling self-conscious (particularly as your untreated hearing loss worsens). But this is a bad idea as it can deprive your brain of that necessary stimulation.
Together, these two factors can result in a major change in your brain. This cognitive decline has commonly been connected to loss of memory, problems concentrating, and (over time) increased risk of mental illness including dementia.
Is Cognitive Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So if your hearing loss is ignored, this kind of cognitive decline can be the outcome. This means that the number one way to reverse those declines is pretty clear: deal with your hearing loss! In most cases, this means new hearing aids.
The degree to which hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-substantiated. Researchers at the University of Melbourne surveyed approximately 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some form of hearing loss. Over 97% of those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months revealed a stabilization or even reversal of that mental decline.
That’s an almost universal improvement, just from using hearing aids. We can learn a couple of things from this:
- Helping you continue to be social is one of the key functions of any set of hearing aids. And the more social you can be, the more engaged your brain stays. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
- Stimulation is key to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is most likely advantageous. This area of your brain will stay healthy and vital as long as you keep hearing ( with assistance from hearing aids).
Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea
The University of Melbourne research isn’t an outlier. Study after study seems to back the notion that hearing aids can help slow down mental decline, particularly when that decline would be hastened by neglected hearing loss. But many people have hearing loss and simply don’t recognize it. You might not even recognize the early signs. So it’s worth scheduling an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit forgetful, spacey, or stressed.
You should still continue doing Sudoko and other brain games. Keeping your brain nimble and engaged in numerous different ways can help expand the overall cognitive strength of your executive functions. Working your brain out and staying mentally fit can be assisted by both hearing aids and brain games.