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

Because of its simplicity, soduku is a globally popular puzzle game. All you need in order to play is some grids, some numbers, and a pencil. For many individuals, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the hours. It’s an added bonus that it strengthens your brain.

“Brain workouts” have become a popular way of addressing cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Sometimes, your brain requires a boost in mental stimulation and research has revealed that hearing aids might be able to fill that role.

Cognitive Decline, What is it?

Your brain has a rather use-it-or-lose-it disposition. Without stimulation, neural pathways will fizzle out. Your brain has to forge and reinforce neural pathways, that’s the reason why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.

While some mental decline is a natural process associated with aging, there are some things that can speed up or worsen that decline. A really formidable hazard for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. When your hearing starts to diminish, two things occur that powerfully impact your brain:

  • You can’t hear as well: With less sound input, your auditory cortex (the region of your brain responsible for all things related to hearing) gets reduced stimulation. This can cause changes in your brain (in some circumstances, for example, your brain starts to prioritize visual stimuli; but that’s not true for everyone). These changes have been linked to a higher risk of cognitive decline.
  • 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 inside to avoid conversation. This can deprive your brain of even more stimulation.

These two things, when combined, can cause your brain to change in major ways. This mental decline has often been linked to loss of memory, problems concentrating, and (in the long term) greater risk of mental illness including dementia.

Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?

So, this cognitive decline occurs because your hearing loss is going untreated. And it’s pretty clear what you need to do to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment treated. Normally, this means new hearing aids.

The amount that hearing aids can slow cognitive decline is both surprising and well-substantiated. Experts at the University of Melbourne surveyed 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, more than 97% revealed that their mental decline either stopped or reversed.

Just wearing hearing aids brought about a nearly universal improvement. We can learn a couple of things from this:

  • Helping you continue to be social is one of the primary functions of any pair of hearing aids. And your brain remains more involved when you are social. When you can understand conversations it’s a lot more enjoyable to socialize with your friends.
  • Discovering ways to activate your auditory cortex would be beneficial because stimulation is essential to mental well being. As long as you keep hearing (assisted by hearing aids), this essential area of your brain will remain stimulated, active, and healthy.

Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea

The University of Melbourne research isn’t an outlier. If you have untreated hearing loss, many studies have revealed that using hearing aids can help decrease cognitive decline. The issue is that not everybody recognizes that they have hearing loss. You might not even recognize the early symptoms. So it’s worth making an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit forgetful, spacey, or stressed.

That hearing aids are so successful doesn’t automatically mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain nimble and engaged 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 work out 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.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC