Sudoku is one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, in large part because of its simplicity. All you need in order to play is a few grids, a pencil, and some numbers. A very enjoyable way to pass some time, for many, is a soduku puzzle book. That it gives your brain a workout is an additional perk.
“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular way of addressing cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. Current studies have shown that hearing aids might be able to provide your brain with a nice little boost in mental stimulation, slowing the advancement of mental decline.
Cognitive Decline, What is it?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Without stimulation, neural connections will fizzle out. That’s why Sudoku has a tendency to keep you mentally active: it causes your brain to think, to creatively make and strengthen numerous neural pathways.
While some mental decline is a natural part of aging, there are some things that can hasten or quicken that decline. A particularly formidable hazard for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. Two things take place that powerfully impact your brain when your hearing begins to go:
- You hear less: When you have less sound input, your auditory cortex (the part of your brain that deals with everything related to hearing) gets diminished stimulation. Your brain might end up changing in a way that causes it to prioritize other senses like sight. Increased danger of cognitive decline has been associated with these changes.
- You don’t go out as much: Untreated hearing loss can cause some people to self-isolate in a detrimental way. As your hearing loss progresses, it might just seem simpler to stay inside to avoid conversation. This can rob your brain of even more input.
These two things, when combined, can cause your brain to change in major ways. This cognitive decline has commonly been connected to memory loss, problems concentrating, and (over time) higher risk of mental disorders including dementia.
Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?
So if your hearing loss is neglected, this type of cognitive decline can be the result. 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 brand new pair of properly-calibrated hearing aids.
It’s well substantiated and also surprising the degree that hearing aids can slow down cognitive decline. About 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were surveyed by the University of Melbourne. Among those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months, more than 97% said that their mental decline either stopped or reversed.
Just using hearing aids resulted in an almost universal improvement. We can learn a couple of things from this:
- Stimulation is integral to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is probably beneficial. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this essential area of your brain will continue to be stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.
- One of the primary functions of hearing aids is to keep you in your social circle. And your brain stays more engaged when you stay social. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
Sudoko is Still a Good Idea
This new study out of the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Numerous studies seem to back up the notion that hearing aids can help slow down mental decline, specifically when that decline would be accelerated by neglected hearing loss. But many people have hearing loss and simply aren’t aware of it. You may not even notice the early symptoms. So it’s worth scheduling an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit forgetful, spacey, or strained.
That hearing aids are so effective doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and involved in numerous different ways can help broaden the overall cognitive strength of your executive functions. Working your brain out and staying cognitively fit can be helped by both hearing aids and brain games.