Hearing Health Blog

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

Sudoku is a global, popular puzzle game, in large part because of its simplicity. All you require to play is some grids, a pencil, and some numbers. A very relaxing way to pass some hours, for many individuals, is a soduku puzzle book. It’s an additional perk that it’s good for your brain.

It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to address mental decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. Recent research has shown that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a nice little boost in mental stimulation, slowing down the progression of mental decline.

Mental Decline, What is it?

Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Without stimulus, neural connections 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 strengthen numerous neural pathways.

While a certain amount of mental decline is a normal process associated with aging, there are some factors that can speed up or quicken that decline. Hearing loss, for example, can provide a particularly potent peril for your cognitive health. Two things take place that really impact your brain when your hearing begins to go:

  • 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 situations, for instance, your brain starts to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everyone). These changes have been linked to a higher danger of mental decline.
  • You don’t go out as much: Neglected hearing loss can cause some individuals to self-isolate in an unhealthy way. As your hearing loss increases, it might just seem easier to stay home to escape conversation. But this is a bad idea as it can rob your brain of that needed stimulation.

Combined, these two things can cause a significant change in your brain. This cognitive decline has frequently been linked to memory loss, problems concentrating, and (in the long term) greater danger of mental disorders such as dementia.

Is Cognitive Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?

So if your hearing loss is overlooked, this type of mental decline can be the outcome. This means that the best way to reverse those declines is fairly obvious: address your hearing impairment! Normally, this means new hearing aids.

The degree to which hearing aids can slow cognitive decline is both unexpected and well-substantiated. Around 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were surveyed by the University of Melbourne. Among those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months, more than 97% said that their cognitive decline either stopped or reversed.

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

  • One of the main functions of hearing aids is to help you stay social. And the more social you are, the more involved your brain remains. It’s easier (and more fun) to talk with your friends when you can understand the conversation!
  • Stimulation is critical to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it normally wouldn’t be, is most likely helpful. As long as you keep hearing (with the assistance of hearing aids), this essential region of your brain will continue to be stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.

Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea

This new research out of the University of Melbourne isn’t the only one of it’s kind. Numerous studies appear to back the notion that hearing aids can help reduce mental decline, particularly when that decline would be hastened by untreated hearing loss. The issue is that not everyone recognizes that they have hearing loss. You may not even recognize the early signs. So if you’re feeling strained, forgetful, or even a bit spacier than usual, it might be worth talking with your hearing specialist.

You should still continue doing Sudoko and other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and engaged in numerous different ways can help broaden the total cognitive strength of your executive functions. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you work out your brain and keep yourself cognitively 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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