Because it’s simple, soduku is a globally popular puzzle game. All you need in order to play is some grids, a pencil, and some numbers. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the hours. That it’s a workout for your brain is an additional bonus.
It’s becoming popular to use “brain workouts” to manage cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. Recent studies have demonstrated that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a little boost in mental activation, slowing down the advancement of mental decline.
What is Cognitive Decline?
Your brain has a very use-it-or-lose-it temperament. Neural pathways will fizzle out without proper stimulus. 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 things that can accelerate or quicken that decline. Hearing loss, for instance, can introduce an exceptionally potent hazard for your mental health. When your hearing begins to decline, two things happen that really impact your brain:
- You hear less: When you have less sound input, your auditory cortex (the region of your brain that deals with everything related to hearing) receives weakened stimulation. This can cause alterations to your brain (in some situations, for instance, your brain starts to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everybody). These changes have been connected to an increased danger of cognitive decline.
- 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. But this is not a good idea as it can deprive your brain of that needed stimulation.
These two factors, when put together, can cause your brain to change in significant ways. Memory loss, trouble concentrating, and eventually an increased danger of dementia have been related to this type of cognitive decline.
Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So if your hearing loss is ignored, this type of mental decline can be the result. This means that the number one way to reverse those declines is fairly clear: deal with your hearing loss! In most cases, this means new hearing aids.
The degree to which hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-substantiated. Researchers at the University of Melbourne surveyed about 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 revealed a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.
That’s an almost universal improvement, just from using hearing aids. We can learn a couple of things from this:
- Finding ways to activate your auditory cortex would be helpful because stimulation is the key to mental well being. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this essential region of your brain will remain stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.
- Helping you remain social is one of the key functions of any set of hearing aids. And your brain remains more engaged when you are social. It’s easier (and more fun) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea
This new research out of the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. If you have untreated hearing loss, many studies have shown that using hearing aids can help slow down mental decline. But many people have hearing loss and just don’t recognize it. 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 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. They keep your brain refreshed and flexible and give you stronger overall cognitive function. Working your brain out and staying mentally fit can be assisted by both hearing aids and brain games.