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

Because it’s simple, soduku is one of the world’s most popular puzzle games. A pencil, some numbers, and a few grids are all that’s required. A very enjoyable way to pass some hours, for many people, is a soduku puzzle book. It’s an additional perk that it strengthens your brain.

“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular means of fending off mental decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Often, your brain needs a boost in mental stimulation and studies have revealed that hearing aids might be able to fill that role.

What is Cognitive Decline?

Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Without stimulation, neural pathways tend to fizzle out. That’s the reason why Sudoku tends to keep you mentally active: it forces your brain to think, to creatively make and reinforce numerous neural pathways.

There are a few things that will hasten the process that would be an ordinary amount of mental decline connected with the aging process. An especially formidable danger for your cognitive health, as an example, is hearing loss. When your hearing begins to diminish, two things happen that really impact your brain:

  • You can’t hear as well: When you have less sound input, your auditory cortex (the region of your brain that deals with everything hearing-related) receives reduced stimulation. This can cause changes in your brain (in some circumstances, 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 go out less: Neglected hearing loss can cause some individuals to self-isolate in a detrimental way. Staying home to avoid conversations might seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (specifically as your neglected hearing loss progresses). This can deprive your brain of even more stimulation.

These two factors, when put together, can cause your brain to change in major ways. This cognitive decline has often been connected to loss of memory, trouble concentrating, and (in the long term) higher danger of mental illness including dementia.

Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?

So if your hearing loss is ignored, this kind of mental decline can be the result. And it’s pretty clear what needs to be done to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment treated. For most people with hearing loss, that means a brand new pair of properly-calibrated hearing aids.

It’s well substantiated and also surprising the extent that hearing aids can delay cognitive decline. Experts at the University of Melbourne surveyed around 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some form of hearing loss. Among those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months, over 97% said that their mental decline either stabilized or reversed.

Just wearing hearing aids resulted in an almost universal improvement. That tells us a couple of things:

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

Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea

The University of Melbourne research isn’t an outlier. If you have neglected hearing loss, numerous studies have shown that using hearing aids can help slow cognitive decline. But many individuals have hearing loss and just don’t recognize it. The symptoms can take you by surprise. 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 automatically mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. They keep your brain fresh and flexible and give you better general cognitive function. Working your brain out and staying cognitively fit can be assisted by both hearing aids and brain games.

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