Sudoku is a global, popular puzzle game, mainly because of its simplicity. A pencil, some numbers, and a few grids are all that’s required. A very enjoyable way to pass some time, for many people, is a soduku puzzle book. It’s an additional bonus that it strengthens your brain.
“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular means of fending off mental decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Current research has shown that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a little boost in mental activation, reducing the progression of cognitive decline.
Mental Decline, What is it?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural pathways will fizzle without appropriate stimulation. 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 factors that can accelerate or worsen that decline. Hearing loss, for example, can introduce an especially potent peril for your cognitive health. Two things happen that really impact your brain when your hearing begins to go:
- You can’t hear as well: 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 instance, your brain starts to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everybody). Increased danger of cognitive decline has been connected to these changes.
- You don’t go out as much: Neglected hearing loss can cause some people to self-isolate in an unhealthy way. Staying in to escape conversations may seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (particularly as your neglected hearing loss progresses). But this is not a good idea as it can deprive your brain of that needed stimulation.
Combined, these two things can result in a major change in your brain. Loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, and ultimately an increased risk of dementia have been linked to this type of mental decline.
Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?
So, this mental decline occurs because your hearing loss is going untreated. And it’s pretty clear what needs to be done to reverse these declines: get your hearing loss treated. For the majority of people with hearing loss, that means a shiny new pair of properly-calibrated hearing aids.
It’s well substantiated and also surprising the extent that hearing aids can slow down cognitive decline. Experts at the University of Melbourne interviewed about 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some kind of hearing loss. Among those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months, more than 97% reported that their mental decline either stopped or reversed.
Just using hearing aids brought about a nearly universal improvement. That tells us a couple of things:
- Discovering ways to activate your auditory cortex would be helpful because stimulation is essential to mental well being. As long as you continue to hear (assisted by hearing aids), this vital area of your brain will remain stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.
- Helping you stay social is one of the key functions of any set of hearing aids. And the more social you are, the more engaged your brain stays. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to talk with your friends when you can understand the conversation!
Sudoko is Still a Good Idea
This new research from the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. If you have untreated hearing loss, countless studies have demonstrated that using hearing aids can help slow cognitive decline. But many individuals have hearing loss and simply aren’t aware of it. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So it’s worth scheduling an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit spacey, forgetful, or stressed.
That hearing aids are so effective doesn’t automatically mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and involved in a number of different ways can help expand the overall cognitive strength of your executive functions. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you work out your brain and keep yourself cognitively fit.