Sudoku is one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, in large part because of its simplicity. Some numbers, a pencil, and a few grids are all that’s required. For many people, a Sudoku puzzle book is a relaxing way to pass the hours. It’s an added bonus that it strengthens your brain.
“Brain workouts” have become a popular means of fending off cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. Current research has shown that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a little boost in mental stimulation, slowing the progression of mental decline.
Cognitive Decline, What is it?
Your brain has a very use-it-or-lose-it temperament. Neural pathways will fizzle without proper stimulus. That’s why Sudoku tends to keep you mentally active: it causes your brain to think, to creatively make and reinforce a plethora of neural pathways.
There are some things that will speed up the process that would be an ordinary amount of mental decline connected with the aging process. Hearing loss, for example, can present a particularly potent risk for your mental health. Two things take place that really affect 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 cases, for example, your brain starts to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everybody). Increased danger of mental decline has been associated with these changes.
- You go out less: Self isolation is a very detrimental behavior, but that’s exactly what some people do when they suffer from hearing loss. As your hearing loss increases, 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.
Combined, these two things can result in a major change in your brain. This cognitive decline has frequently been connected to memory loss, trouble concentrating, and (over time) greater danger of mental illness like dementia.
Can Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?
So if your hearing loss is ignored, this kind of cognitive decline can be the result. And it’s fairly clear what needs to be done to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment treated. For most people with hearing loss, that means a shiny new pair of properly-calibrated hearing aids.
The amount that hearing aids can slow cognitive decline is both unexpected and well-substantiated. Approximately 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were interviewed by the University of Melbourne. 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.
Just wearing hearing aids brought about a nearly universal improvement. That tells us a couple of things:
- One of the primary functions of hearing aids is to keep you in your social circle. And your brain stays more involved when you are social. When you can hear conversations it’s a lot more enjoyable to socialize with your friends.
- Stimulation is key to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is probably helpful. This area of your brain will stay vital and healthy as long as you keep hearing ( with assistance from hearing aids).
Sudoko is Still a Good Idea
The University of Melbourne research isn’t the only one of it’s kind. If you have neglected hearing loss, countless studies have shown that wearing hearing aids can help slow mental decline. But many people have hearing loss and just don’t recognize it. You might not even recognize the early signs. So it’s worth scheduling an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a little spacey, forgetful, or strained.
That hearing aids are so successful doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and engaged in a number of different ways can help broaden the total cognitive strength of your executive functions. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you exercise your brain and keep yourself cognitively fit.