Because of its simplicity, soduku is a globally popular puzzle game. Some numbers, a pencil, and a few grids are all that’s required. For many individuals, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the time. That it gives your brain a workout is an additional perk.
It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to address cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. Current studies have shown that hearing aids may be able to provide your brain with a nice little boost in mental activation, reducing the progression of mental decline.
What is Cognitive Decline?
Your brain has a rather use-it-or-lose-it disposition. Neural pathways will fizzle out without appropriate stimulation. Your brain needs to create and strengthen neural pathways, that’s why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.
While some mental decline is a natural process associated with aging, there are some variables that can accelerate or exacerbate that decline. Hearing loss, for instance, can provide an exceptionally formidable peril for your cognitive health. When your hearing begins to decline, two things occur that powerfully impact your brain:
- You hear less: 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 circumstances, for instance, your brain begins to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everyone). These changes have been connected to a higher risk of cognitive decline.
- You go out less: Untreated hearing loss can cause some people to self-isolate in a detrimental way. As your hearing loss progresses, it may just seem simpler to stay inside to escape conversation. But this is a bad 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. Memory loss, trouble concentrating, and eventually an increased danger of dementia have been connected to this type of cognitive decline.
Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?
So, this cognitive decline occurs because your hearing loss is being neglected. This means that the best way to treat those declines is pretty obvious: deal with your hearing loss! For the majority of people with hearing loss, that means a shiny new pair of well-calibrated hearing aids.
It’s well corroborated and also surprising the extent that hearing aids can slow down mental decline. 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. Among those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months, more than 97% said that their cognitive decline either stopped or reversed.
Just using hearing aids resulted in a nearly universal improvement. That tells us a couple of things:
- Helping you continue to be social is one of the primary functions of any set of hearing aids. And your brain remains more involved when you are social. When you can hear conversations it’s a lot more fun to spend time with your friends.
- Stimulation is key to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it normally wouldn’t be, is probably helpful. This portion of your brain will remain vital and healthy as long as you continue to hear ( with assistance from hearing aids).
Sudoko is Still a Smart Idea
This new research from the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Study after study seems to back up the notion that hearing aids can help reduce cognitive decline, specifically when that decline would be accelerated by neglected hearing loss. But many people have hearing loss and just don’t recognize it. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So if you’re feeling strained, forgetful, or even a little spacier than usual, it may be worth checking with your hearing specialist.
You should still continue doing Sudoko and other brain games. They keep your brain refreshed and flexible and give you stronger general cognitive function. Working your brain out and keeping mentally fit can be helped by both hearing aids and brain games.