Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

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. A pencil, some numbers, and a few grids are all that’s required. For many individuals, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the hours. It’s an added bonus that it strengthens your brain.

It’s becoming popular to use “brain workouts” to tackle cognitive decline. But there are other methods of delaying mental decline. At times, your brain needs a boost in mental activation and research has shown that hearing aids may be capable of filling that role.

What is Mental Decline?

Your brain has a rather use-it-or-lose-it disposition. Without stimulus, neural pathways tend to fizzle out. That’s why Sudoku tends to keep you mentally active: it causes your brain to think, to creatively forge and strengthen a plethora of neural pathways.

While some mental decline is a normal part of aging, there are some things that can hasten or worsen that decline. A particularly formidable hazard for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. Two things take place that powerfully affect your brain when your hearing begins to go:

  • You hear less: There’s not as much sound going in to stimulate your auditory cortex (the hearing center of the brain). This can cause alterations to your brain (in some situations, for example, your brain starts to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everyone). These changes have been connected to an increased danger of cognitive decline.
  • You go out less: Untreated hearing loss can cause some people to self-isolate in an unhealthy way. Staying in to steer clear of conversations may seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (specifically as your untreated hearing loss progresses). But this is a bad 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 frequently been linked to loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, and (over time) increased risk of mental illness including dementia.

Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?

So, this mental decline takes place because your hearing loss is going untreated. And it’s fairly obvious what you need to do to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment treated. Usually, this means new hearing aids.

It’s well corroborated and also unexpected the extent that hearing aids can slow down cognitive decline. Scientists at the University of Melbourne interviewed about 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some form of hearing loss. Over 97% of those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months revealed a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.

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

  • Stimulation is critical to your mental health, so that means anything that helps your auditory cortex stay active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is probably helpful. As long as you keep hearing (with the assistance of hearing aids), this major area of your brain will continue to be stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.
  • Helping you remain social is one of the primary functions of any pair of hearing aids. And the more social you are, the more engaged your brain stays. It’s easier (and more fun) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!

Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea

This new research from the University of Melbourne isn’t the only one of it’s kind. Numerous studies seem to back up the notion that hearing aids can help slow down cognitive decline, particularly when that decline would be hastened by untreated hearing loss. The problem is that not everyone recognizes that they have hearing loss. You might not even notice the early symptoms. So if you’re feeling forgetful, strained, or even a bit spacier than usual, it might be worth talking with your hearing specialist.

You should still keep doing Sudoko and other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and involved in a number of different ways can help expand the overall 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.
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