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Image of someone with a hearing aid doing a brain game to improve cognitive ability.

Sudoku is a worldwide, popular puzzle game, in large part because of its simplicity. A pencil, some numbers, and a few grids are all you need. A very relaxing way to pass some hours, for many people, is a soduku puzzle book. That it’s a workout for your brain is an additional bonus.

“Brain workouts” have become a popular way of addressing mental decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Current research has demonstrated that hearing aids may be able to provide your brain with a little boost in mental activation, reducing the advancement of mental decline.

What is Mental Decline?

Your brain has a very use-it-or-lose-it temperament. Without stimulus, neural pathways have the tendency to fizzle. Your brain has to make and reinforce neural pathways, that’s why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.

There are certain things that will accelerate the process that would be an ordinary amount of mental decline associated with the aging process. Hearing loss, for example, can provide a really potent danger for your cognitive health. Two things take place that really impact your brain when your hearing begins to wain:

  • 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 changes in your brain (in some cases, for instance, your brain starts to prioritize visual stimuli; but that isn’t true for everyone). These changes have been connected to a higher risk of mental decline.
  • You don’t go out as much: Untreated hearing loss can cause some individuals to self-isolate in an unhealthy way. Staying in to avoid conversations may seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (especially as your untreated hearing loss worsens). This can rob your brain of even more input.

These two factors, when put together, can cause your brain to change in significant ways. This mental decline has commonly been linked to loss of memory, trouble concentrating, and (over time) greater danger of mental disorders including dementia.

Can Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?

So if your hearing loss is neglected, this type of cognitive decline can be the consequence. This means that the number one way to treat those declines is fairly obvious: treat your hearing impairment! For most people with hearing loss, that means a shiny new pair of properly-calibrated hearing aids.

The amount that hearing aids can slow mental decline is both unexpected and well-corroborated. 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% revealed that their cognitive decline either stabilized or reversed.

That’s a nearly universal improvement, just from wearing hearing aids. We can learn a couple of things from this:

  • One of the main functions of hearing aids is to help you stay social. And your brain stays more involved when you stay social. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to talk with your friends when you can understand the conversation!
  • Finding ways to keep your auditory cortex active would be helpful because stimulation is essential to mental health. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this vital area of your brain will remain stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.

Sudoko is Still a Good Idea

The University of Melbourne research isn’t an outlier. If you have neglected hearing loss, countless studies have demonstrated that wearing hearing aids can help slow cognitive decline. The issue is that not everybody recognizes that they have hearing loss. You may not even notice the early symptoms. So if you’re feeling forgetful, strained, or even a little spacier than normal, it may be worth talking with your hearing specialist.

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 involved 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 mentally fit.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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