Sudoku is a global, popular puzzle game, mainly because of its simplicity. All you require to play is some grids, some numbers, and a pencil. For many people, a Sudoku puzzle book is a relaxing way to pass the time. It’s an added bonus that it’s good for your brain.
It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to deal with mental decline. But there are other means of slowing down cognitive decline. Sometimes, your brain requires a boost in mental stimulation and research has demonstrated that hearing aids might be capable of filling that role.
Mental Decline, What is it?
Your brain has a truly use-it-or-lose-it disposition. Without stimulation, neural connections tend to fizzle. Your brain needs to forge and reinforce neural pathways, that’s the reason why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.
While some mental decline is a natural part of aging, there are some variables that can speed up or worsen that decline. Hearing loss, for instance, can present an especially formidable risk for your cognitive health. Two things happen that powerfully affect your brain when your hearing begins to go:
- You hear less: There’s not as much sound going in to activate your auditory cortex (the hearing center of the brain). This can cause alterations to your brain (in some circumstances, for example, your brain starts to prioritize visual stimuli; but that’s not true for everybody). A higher danger of mental decline has been linked to these changes.
- You go out less: Self isolation is a very detrimental behavior, but that’s exactly what some individuals do when they have hearing loss. As your hearing loss progresses, it may just seem simpler to stay home to escape conversation. This can deprive your brain of even more input.
These two things, when put together, can cause your brain to change in significant ways. Loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, and eventually a higher danger of dementia have been related to this type of cognitive decline.
Is Cognitive Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So if your hearing loss is ignored, this kind of cognitive decline can be the outcome. This means that the best way to reverse those declines is fairly clear: treat your hearing impairment! Usually, this means new hearing aids.
It’s well corroborated and also surprising the degree that hearing aids can delay cognitive decline. Scientists at the University of Melbourne surveyed approximately 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some kind of hearing loss. 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 wearing hearing aids resulted in a nearly universal improvement. That tells us a couple of things:
- Helping you remain social is one of the primary functions of any pair of hearing aids. And your brain remains more involved when you are social. When you can understand conversations it’s a lot more enjoyable to talk with your friends.
- Stimulation is critical to your mental health, so that means anything that helps your auditory cortex stay active when it normally wouldn’t be, is probably helpful. This region of your brain will stay healthy and vital as long as you continue to hear ( with help from hearing aids).
Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea
The University of Melbourne study isn’t an outlier. Study after study seems to back up the notion that hearing aids can help slow mental decline, specifically when that decline would be hastened by untreated hearing loss. The difficulty is that not everyone knows that they have hearing loss. 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 spacey, forgetful, or stressed.
That hearing aids are so effective doesn’t automatically mean you should quit doing Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and involved 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 cognitively fit.