Because it’s simple, Sudoku is a globally popular puzzle game. All you require in order to play is some grids, some numbers, and a pencil. For many people, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the hours. That it gives your brain a workout is an additional perk.
“Brain workouts” have become a popular way of addressing mental decline. But there are other methods of delaying cognitive decline. Current research has shown that hearing aids may be able to provide your brain with a little boost in mental stimulation, slowing the progression of mental decline.
What is Cognitive Decline?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural pathways will fizzle out without appropriate stimulation. That’s why Sudoku has a tendency to keep you mentally active: it causes your brain to think, to creatively make and reinforce a plethora of neural pathways.
While some mental decline is a natural process associated with aging, there are some variables that can accelerate or quicken that decline. A particularly potent risk for your cognitive health, as an example, is hearing loss. When your hearing starts to decline, two things happen that powerfully impact your brain:
- 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. This can cause changes in your brain (in some situations, for example, your brain begins to prioritize visual information; but that’s not true for everybody). Increased risk of mental decline has been connected to these changes.
- You don’t go out as much: Self-isolation is a very unhealthy behavior, but that’s exactly what some people do when they suffer from hearing loss. As your hearing loss increases, it may just seem easier to stay home to escape conversation. But this is not a good idea as it can rob your brain of that necessary stimulation.
Put together, these two factors can be the cause of a significant change in your brain. This mental decline has often been connected to loss of memory, trouble concentrating, and (over time) greater risk of mental illness including dementia.
Is Cognitive Decline Reversible With Hearing Aids?
So, this cognitive decline takes place because your hearing loss is being neglected. This means that the best way to reverse those declines is fairly obvious: deal with your hearing loss! In most cases, this means new hearing aids.
It’s well corroborated and also surprising the extent that hearing aids can delay cognitive decline. Scientists 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 used their hearing aids for at least 18 months revealed a stabilization or even reversal of that mental decline.
Just using hearing aids brought about an almost universal improvement. We can learn a couple of things from this:
- Helping you stay social is one of the primary functions of any set of hearing aids. And your brain stays more involved when you are social. It’s easier (and more fun) to hang with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
- Finding ways to activate your auditory cortex would be beneficial because stimulation is essential to mental well being. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this vital area of your brain will remain stimulated, active, and healthy.
Sudoku is Still a Good Idea
This new study out of the University of Melbourne isn’t the only one of it’s kind. Study after study seems to back up the notion that hearing aids can help reduce cognitive decline, particularly when that decline would be accelerated by neglected hearing loss. The problem is that not everybody recognizes that they have hearing loss. You might not even recognize the early symptoms. So it’s worth scheduling an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit forgetful, spacey, or stressed.
You should still continue doing Sudoku and other brain games. They keep your brain refreshed and flexible and give you better general cognitive function. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you work out your brain and keep yourself cognitively fit.