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. All you need to play is a few grids, some numbers, and a pencil. A very pleasant way to pass some time, for many, is a soduku puzzle book. It’s an additional bonus that it’s good for your brain.

“Brain workouts” have become a popular means of fending off cognitive decline. But there are other methods of slowing down mental decline. Sometimes, your brain requires a boost in mental stimulation and studies have shown that hearing aids could be capable of filling that role.

What is Mental Decline?

Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural connections will fizzle without proper stimulus. Your brain needs to create and reinforce neural pathways, that’s why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.

While some mental decline is a natural part of aging, there are some factors that can accelerate or exacerbate that decline. Hearing loss, for example, can present an especially formidable hazard for your cognitive health. Two things happen that powerfully affect your brain when your hearing begins to wain:

  • You hear less: There is less sound going in to activate your auditory cortex (the hearing focus of the brain). Your brain could end up changing in a way that causes it to prioritize other senses like sight. Increased risk of cognitive decline has been connected to these changes.
  • You don’t go out as much: Self isolation is a very unhealthy behavior, but that’s exactly what some people do when they suffer from hearing loss. As your hearing loss progresses, it might just seem easier to stay home to avoid conversation. But this is not a good idea as it can rob your brain of that needed stimulation.

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

Will 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 loss treated. For most people with hearing loss, that means a shiny new pair of well-calibrated hearing aids.

The amount that hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-corroborated. Scientists at the University of Melbourne interviewed around 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some kind 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 brought about an almost universal improvement. That tells us a couple of things:

  • Helping you remain social is one of the key functions of any pair of hearing aids. And your brain stays more engaged when you are social. When you can follow conversations it’s much more fun to hang out with your friends.
  • Stimulation is critical to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is most likely advantageous. This region of your brain will stay healthy and vital as long as you keep hearing ( with help from hearing aids).

Sudoko is Still a Good Idea

This new study from the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Numerous studies seem to back up the notion that hearing aids can help slow down cognitive decline, especially when that decline would be accelerated by neglected hearing loss. But many individuals have hearing loss and simply aren’t aware of it. You might not even recognize the early symptoms. So if you’re feeling strained, forgetful, or even a little spacier than usual, it may be worth checking with your hearing specialist.

That hearing aids are so successful doesn’t automatically mean you should quit doing Sudoku or other brain games. They keep your brain refreshed and pliable and give you better overall cognitive function. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you exercise your brain and keep yourself cognitively fit.

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