Sudoku is one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, in large part because of its simplicity. All you require to play is some grids, a pencil, and some numbers. A very relaxing way to pass some hours, for many individuals, is a soduku puzzle book. It’s an added perk that it’s good for your brain.
It’s becoming popular to use “brain workouts” to tackle cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Sometimes, your brain needs a boost in mental stimulation and studies have shown that hearing aids may be capable of filling that role.
What is Mental Decline?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural connections will fizzle without appropriate stimulation. 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 hasten or worsen that decline. An especially formidable hazard for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. Two things happen that really impact your brain when your hearing starts to wain:
- You can’t hear as well: When you have less sound input, your auditory cortex (the region of your brain responsible for everything related to hearing) receives weakened stimulation. This can cause changes in your brain (in some situations, for example, your brain starts to prioritize visual stimuli; but that’s not true for everybody). These changes have been linked to an increased 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. As your hearing loss progresses, it may just seem easier to stay home to escape conversation. But this is not a good idea as it can deprive your brain of that needed stimulation.
These two things, when combined, can cause your brain to change in major ways. This mental decline has frequently been connected to memory loss, problems concentrating, and (in the long term) greater danger of mental illness such as dementia.
Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So, this mental decline occurs because your hearing loss is being neglected. This means that the number one way to reverse those declines is fairly clear: address your hearing loss! In most cases, this means new hearing aids.
It’s well substantiated and also unexpected the degree that hearing aids can slow down mental decline. Researchers 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 mental decline.
That’s an almost universal improvement, simply from using hearing aids. That tells us a couple of things:
- Stimulation is critical to your mental health, so that means anything that helps your auditory cortex stay active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is most likely helpful. This portion of your brain will continue to be healthy and vital as long as you continue to hear ( with help from hearing aids).
- One of the principal functions of hearing aids is to help you stay social. And the more social you are, the more engaged your brain stays. It’s easier (and more fun) 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 the only one of it’s kind. Study after study seems to back the notion that hearing aids can help reduce mental decline, specifically when that decline would be accelerated by untreated hearing loss. The difficulty is that not everybody recognizes that they have hearing loss. You might not even recognize the early symptoms. So it’s worth making an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a little spacey, forgetful, or strained.
You should still continue doing Sudoko and other brain games. They keep your brain fresh and flexible and give you stronger overall cognitive function. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you exercise your brain and keep yourself cognitively fit.