Sudoku is a worldwide, popular puzzle game, mainly because of its simplicity. All you need 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 additional bonus that it’s good for your brain.
“Brain workouts” have become a popular means of fending off cognitive decline. But there are other means of delaying mental decline. Current research has demonstrated that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a nice little boost in mental stimulation, slowing the progression of cognitive decline.
What is Mental Decline?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Without stimulation, neural pathways will fizzle. Your brain has to forge and strengthen neural pathways, that’s why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.
While some mental decline is a natural process associated with aging, there are some variables that can hasten or worsen that decline. Hearing loss, as an example, can provide a particularly potent peril for your mental health. Two things occur that really affect your brain when your hearing starts to go:
- You hear less: There is less sound going in to stimulate your auditory cortex (the hearing focus of the brain). This can cause changes in your brain (in some circumstances, for instance, your brain starts to prioritize visual information; but that’s not true for everyone). These changes have been connected to an increased danger of cognitive decline.
- You go out less: Self isolation is a very unhealthy behavior, but that’s exactly what some individuals do when they have hearing loss. Staying in to steer clear of conversations might seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (particularly as your neglected hearing loss progresses). This can deprive your brain of even more stimulation.
Put together, these two factors can cause a significant change in your brain. This cognitive decline has commonly been linked to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and (over time) greater danger of mental illness such as dementia.
Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?
So, this cognitive decline occurs because your hearing loss is being neglected. And it’s pretty clear what you need to do 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.
It’s well substantiated and also surprising the degree that hearing aids can delay cognitive decline. Scientists at the University of Melbourne interviewed about 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some form of hearing loss. Among those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months, more than 97% reported that their mental decline either stopped or reversed.
That’s a nearly universal improvement, simply from wearing hearing aids. That tells us a couple of things:
- Helping you continue to be social is one of the primary functions of any pair of hearing aids. And your brain stays more involved when you stay social. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
- Discovering ways to keep your auditory cortex active would be beneficial because stimulation is essential to mental health. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this major region of your brain will remain stimulated, active, and healthy.
Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea
This new research out of the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Numerous studies appear to back up the notion that hearing aids can help slow mental decline, particularly when that decline would be hastened by neglected hearing loss. The issue is that not everyone recognizes that they have hearing loss. You might not even notice the early signs. So it’s worth making an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit forgetful, spacey, or stressed.
That hearing aids are so effective doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain nimble and engaged in numerous different ways can help expand the total cognitive strength of your executive functions. Working your brain out and keeping mentally fit can be assisted by both hearing aids and brain games.