Sudoku is a worldwide, popular puzzle game, mainly because of its simplicity. A pencil, some numbers, and a few grids are all you need. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the hours. It’s an added perk that it strengthens your brain.
It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to address cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. At times, your brain requires a boost in mental stimulation and research has shown that hearing aids may be able to fill that role.
Cognitive Decline, What is it?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural connections will fizzle without appropriate stimulus. That’s the reason why Sudoku tends to keep you mentally active: it forces your brain to think, to creatively make and reinforce a plethora of neural pathways.
There are certain things that will quicken the process that would be a normal amount of mental decline connected with getting older. A particularly potent risk for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. When your hearing starts to decline, two things take place that powerfully affect your brain:
- You can’t hear as well: There’s not as much sound going in to stimulate your auditory cortex (the hearing focus of the brain). Your brain could end up changing in a way that makes it prioritize other senses like sight. These changes have been linked to a higher risk of mental decline.
- You go out less: Neglected hearing loss can cause some people to self-isolate in an unhealthy way. Staying home to steer clear of conversations may seem simpler than going out and feeling self-conscious (especially as your untreated hearing loss worsens). But this is a bad idea as it can deprive your brain of that needed stimulation.
These two factors, when combined, can cause your brain to change in major ways. Memory loss, problems concentrating, and eventually a higher danger of dementia have been related to this kind of mental decline.
Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?
So, this mental decline occurs because your hearing loss is being neglected. And it’s fairly clear what needs to be done to reverse these declines: get your hearing loss treated. For most people with hearing loss, that means a shiny new pair of properly-calibrated hearing aids.
The degree to which hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-corroborated. 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 wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months revealed a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.
That’s a nearly universal improvement, just from using hearing aids. That tells us a couple of things:
- Finding ways to activate your auditory cortex would be helpful because stimulation is essential to mental health. As long as you keep hearing (assisted by hearing aids), this vital area of your brain will remain stimulated, active, and healthy.
- Helping you stay social is one of the key functions of any pair of hearing aids. And the more social you are, the more engaged your brain stays. When you can follow conversations it’s much more fun to spend time with your friends.
Sudoko is Still a Good Idea
This new study from the University of Melbourne isn’t the only one of it’s kind. Numerous studies appear to back up the notion that hearing aids can help slow down mental decline, particularly when that decline would be hastened by neglected hearing loss. The issue is that not everyone 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 spacey, forgetful, or strained.
That hearing aids are so successful doesn’t automatically mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and engaged in a number of different ways can help broaden the overall cognitive strength of your executive functions. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you exercise your brain and keep yourself mentally fit.