Because of its simplicity, soduku is a globally popular puzzle game. All you need in order to play is a few grids, a pencil, and some numbers. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the hours. That it gives your brain a workout is an additional bonus.
It’s becoming popular to use “brain workouts” to manage cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Recent studies have revealed that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a little boost in mental stimulation, slowing down the progression of mental decline.
Cognitive Decline, What is it?
Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Without stimulus, neural pathways will fizzle. Your brain needs to create and strengthen neural pathways, that’s why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.
While a certain amount of mental decline is a natural part of aging, there are some factors that can speed up or exacerbate that decline. A particularly formidable danger for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. Two things occur that really affect your brain when your hearing starts to go:
- You can’t hear as well: There’s not as much sound going in to stimulate 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 information; but that’s not true for everyone). These changes have been linked to an increased danger of mental decline.
- You go out less: Neglected hearing loss can cause some individuals to self-isolate in an unhealthy way. As your hearing loss increases, it may just seem easier to stay inside to escape conversation. This can rob your brain of even more stimulation.
These two things, when put together, can cause your brain to change in significant ways. This cognitive decline has commonly been connected to loss of memory, problems concentrating, and (over time) increased risk of mental illness including dementia.
Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So, this cognitive decline takes place because your hearing loss is being neglected. And it’s fairly obvious what needs to be done to reverse these declines: have your hearing loss treated. Usually, this means new hearing aids.
It’s well substantiated and also surprising the degree that hearing aids can slow down mental decline. Approximately 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were surveyed by the University of Melbourne. Among those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months, over 97% reported that their cognitive decline either stabilized or reversed.
That’s an almost universal improvement, simply from wearing hearing aids. That tells us a couple of things:
- Stimulation is critical to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it normally wouldn’t be, is most likely advantageous. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this essential region of your brain will remain stimulated, active, and healthy.
- One of the primary functions of hearing aids is to help you stay social. And your brain remains more engaged when you are social. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!
Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea
This new research from the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Numerous studies appear to back the notion that hearing aids can help slow cognitive decline, particularly when that decline would be accelerated by untreated hearing loss. But many people have hearing loss and simply don’t recognize it. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So it’s worth making an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit spacey, forgetful, or stressed.
You should still keep doing Sudoko and other brain games. They keep your brain refreshed and pliable and give you better general cognitive function. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you exercise your brain and keep yourself mentally fit.