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

Because of its simplicity, 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 hours, for many, is a soduku puzzle book. It’s an added bonus that it strengthens your brain.

It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to deal with mental decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only way to delay cognitive recession. Current studies have revealed that hearing aids may be capable of providing your brain with a nice little boost in mental activation, slowing down the progression of cognitive decline.

Mental Decline, What is it?

Your brain has a rather use-it-or-lose-it temperament. Neural pathways will fizzle without proper stimulation. Your brain needs to create and strengthen neural pathways, that’s the reason why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.

While a certain amount of mental decline is a normal part of aging, there are some factors that can accelerate or quicken that decline. An especially potent danger for your mental health, for instance, is hearing loss. When your hearing begins to decline, two things take place that powerfully affect your brain:

  • You can’t hear as well: When you have less sound input, your auditory cortex (the part of your brain that deals with all things related to hearing) receives diminished stimulation. Your brain might end up changing in a way that causes it to prioritize other senses like sight. A higher danger of cognitive decline has been linked to these changes.
  • You go out less: Neglected hearing loss can cause some people to self-isolate in a detrimental way. Staying home to avoid conversations might seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (especially as your untreated hearing loss worsens). But this is not a good idea as it can deprive your brain of that necessary stimulation.

Together, these two things can be the cause of a significant change in your brain. This mental decline has often been connected to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and (over time) greater risk of mental illness such as dementia.

Can Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?

So, this cognitive decline happens because your hearing loss is being neglected. This means that the number one way to treat those declines is fairly obvious: address your hearing impairment! For the majority of people with hearing loss, that means a brand new pair of well-calibrated hearing aids.

It’s well corroborated and also surprising the extent that hearing aids can slow down cognitive decline. 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 wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months, over 97% reported that their cognitive decline either stopped or reversed.

Just wearing hearing aids resulted in an almost universal improvement. We can learn a couple of things from this:

  • Helping you continue to be social is one of the key functions of any set of hearing aids. And your brain remains more involved when you are social. When you can understand conversations it’s much more enjoyable to spend time with your friends.
  • Finding ways to keep your auditory cortex active would be helpful because stimulation is the key to mental health. As long as you continue to hear (assisted by hearing aids), this essential area of your brain will remain stimulated, active, and healthy.

Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea

This new study out of the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Numerous studies appear to back the notion that hearing aids can help slow cognitive decline, specifically when that decline would be accelerated by neglected hearing loss. But many individuals have hearing loss and just aren’t aware of it. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So if you’re feeling forgetful, strained, or even a bit spacier than usual, it may be worth checking with your hearing specialist.

That hearing aids are so effective doesn’t necessarily mean you should quit doing Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain nimble 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 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.