Sudoku is a global, popular puzzle game, in large part because of its simplicity. All you need in order to play is some grids, a pencil, and some numbers. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a relaxing way to pass the hours. It’s an added bonus that it strengthens your brain.
“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular means of fending off cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. Sometimes, your brain requires a boost in mental activation and research has revealed that hearing aids may be able to fill that role.
Mental Decline, What is it?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural pathways will fizzle without appropriate stimulation. Your brain has to make and strengthen neural pathways, that’s the reason why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.
While a certain amount of mental decline is a natural process associated with aging, there are some things that can accelerate or exacerbate that decline. Hearing loss, for example, can introduce an especially formidable hazard for your mental health. When your hearing starts to decline, two things happen that really impact your brain:
- You hear less: There is less sound going in to activate your auditory cortex (the hearing focus of the brain). This can cause changes in your brain (in some situations, for instance, your brain begins to prioritize visual stimuli; but that’s not true for everybody). These changes have been connected to an increased risk of cognitive decline.
- You don’t go out as much: Self isolation is a very detrimental behavior, but that’s exactly what some people do when they suffer from hearing loss. Staying in to escape conversations may seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (particularly as your untreated hearing loss progresses). This can rob your brain of even more stimulation.
These two things, when put together, can cause your brain to change in major ways. This mental decline has commonly been linked to loss of memory, trouble concentrating, and (over time) greater risk of mental illness including dementia.
Is Cognitive Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So, this cognitive decline occurs because your hearing loss is going untreated. This means that the number one way to treat those declines is pretty clear: address your hearing loss! Normally, this means new hearing aids.
The amount that hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-corroborated. Scientists at the University of Melbourne interviewed approximately 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some kind of hearing loss. Over 97% of those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months revealed a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.
Just using hearing aids brought about a nearly universal improvement. We can learn a couple of things from this:
- One of the main functions of hearing aids is to keep you in your social circle. And your brain remains more involved when you are social. It’s easier (and more fun) to hang with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
- Discovering ways to activate your auditory cortex would be advantageous because stimulation is the key to mental health. This region of your brain will continue to be healthy and vital as long as you continue to hear ( with assistance from hearing aids).
Sudoko is Still a Smart Idea
This new study out of the University of Melbourne isn’t the only one of it’s kind. If you have untreated hearing loss, numerous studies have revealed that using hearing aids can help slow mental decline. The problem is that not everybody knows that they have hearing loss. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So it’s worth scheduling an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a little forgetful, spacey, or stressed.
You should still keep doing Sudoko and other brain games. They keep your brain fresh and flexible and give you better general cognitive function. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you exercise your brain and keep yourself cognitively fit.