Sudoku is a global, popular puzzle game, largely because of its simplicity. All you need in order to play is some grids, some numbers, and a pencil. A very relaxing way to pass some hours, for many, is a soduku puzzle book. It’s an added perk that it strengthens your brain.
“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular way of addressing mental decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Recent studies have demonstrated that hearing aids might 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 rather use-it-or-lose-it temperament. Without stimulation, neural pathways have the tendency to fizzle out. That’s why Sudoku tends to keep you mentally active: it causes your brain to think, to creatively forge and reinforce a plethora of neural pathways.
There are some things that will accelerate the process that would be an ordinary amount of mental decline associated with aging. Hearing loss, for instance, can provide a really formidable risk for your cognitive health. Two things happen that powerfully impact your brain when your hearing starts to wain:
- You hear less: There is less sound going in to stimulate your auditory cortex (the hearing center of the brain). This can cause alterations to your brain (in some situations, for example, your brain begins to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everybody). These changes have been linked to a higher risk of mental decline.
- You go out less: Self isolation is a very unhealthy behavior, but that’s exactly what some people do when they have hearing loss. Staying in to avoid conversations may seem simpler than going out and feeling self-conscious (especially as your untreated hearing loss progresses). But this is not a good idea as it can rob your brain of that necessary stimulation.
These two factors, when put together, can cause your brain to change in significant ways. This mental decline has commonly been linked to loss of memory, problems concentrating, and (in the long term) increased danger of mental illness such as dementia.
Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So if your hearing loss is ignored, this kind of mental decline can be the result. This means that the number one way to reverse those declines is pretty obvious: deal with your hearing impairment! Usually, this means new hearing aids.
The amount that hearing aids can slow cognitive decline is both unexpected and well-substantiated. Around 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were interviewed by the University of Melbourne. Over 97% of those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months reported a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.
Just using hearing aids resulted in a nearly universal improvement. We can learn a couple of things from this:
- One of the principal functions of hearing aids is to help you stay social. And the more social you can be, the more involved your brain stays. It’s easier (and more fun) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
- Discovering ways to activate your auditory cortex would be advantageous because stimulation is essential to mental health. As long as you continue to hear (assisted by hearing aids), this vital region of your brain will remain stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.
Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea
The University of Melbourne study isn’t the only one of it’s kind. If you have untreated hearing loss, countless studies have shown that wearing hearing aids can help decrease cognitive decline. But many individuals have hearing loss and simply don’t recognize it. The symptoms can take you by surprise. 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 continue doing Sudoko and other brain games. They keep your brain refreshed and flexible and give you better overall cognitive function. Exercising and staying mentally fit can be helped by both hearing aids and brain games.