Sudoku is one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, mainly because of its simplicity. A pencil, some numbers, and a few grids are all you need. For many people, a Sudoku puzzle book is a pleasant way to pass the hours. It’s an additional perk that it strengthens your brain.
It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to address cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. At times, your brain requires a boost in mental activation and studies have revealed that hearing aids could be able to fill that role.
What is Cognitive Decline?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Without stimulation, neural connections will fizzle. Your brain has to forge and reinforce 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 factors that can speed up or quicken that decline. Hearing loss, for example, can present a particularly potent danger for your mental health. When your hearing begins to decline, two things happen that really affect your brain:
- You can’t hear as well: With less sound input, your auditory cortex (the region of your brain responsible for all things hearing-related) gets weakened stimulation. This can cause alterations to your brain (in some situations, for example, your brain begins to prioritize visual stimuli; but that isn’t true for everybody). These changes have been connected to an increased danger of mental decline.
- You go out less: Self isolation is a very detrimental behavior, but that’s exactly what some individuals do when they suffer from hearing loss. Staying home to steer clear of conversations might seem simpler than going out and feeling self-conscious (particularly as your untreated hearing loss progresses). This can deprive your brain of even more input.
These two factors, when combined, can cause your brain to change in significant ways. Loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, and ultimately an increased danger of dementia have been linked to this kind of mental decline.
Is Cognitive Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So if your hearing loss is neglected, this type of mental decline can be the outcome. And it’s fairly obvious what you need to do to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment 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 cognitive decline is both surprising and well-corroborated. Approximately 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 used their hearing aids for at least 18 months reported a stabilization or even reversal of that mental decline.
That’s an almost universal improvement, simply from wearing hearing aids. That tells us a couple of things:
- One of the primary functions of hearing aids is to keep you in your social circle. And the more social you can be, the more involved your brain remains. When you can follow conversations it’s a lot more fun to spend time with your friends.
- Stimulation is key to your mental health, so that means anything that helps your auditory cortex stay active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is probably advantageous. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this major area of your brain will continue to be stimulated, active, and healthy.
Sudoko is Still a Smart Idea
This new research out of the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Numerous studies seem to back the notion that hearing aids can help slow down cognitive decline, specifically when that decline would be accelerated by untreated hearing loss. The difficulty is that not everyone knows that they have hearing loss. You may not even notice the early signs. So it’s worth making an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a little forgetful, spacey, or strained.
You should still keep doing Sudoko and other brain games. They keep your brain refreshed and flexible and give you stronger overall cognitive function. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you work out your brain and keep yourself mentally fit.