Hearing Health Blog

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 some grids, a pencil, and some numbers. A very pleasant way to pass some time, for many people, is a soduku puzzle book. That it’s a workout for your brain is an added bonus.

It’s becoming popular to use “brain workouts” to deal with cognitive decline. But Sudoku isn’t the only method of delaying cognitive recession. Often, your brain needs a boost in mental activation and research has shown that hearing aids could be capable of filling that role.

What is Cognitive Decline?

Your brain has a truly use-it-or-lose-it temperament. Without stimulus, neural pathways will fizzle out. Your brain needs to make and reinforce neural pathways, that’s why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.

There are some things that will accelerate the process that would be a normal amount of cognitive decline connected with getting older. A particularly potent hazard for your cognitive health, for instance, is hearing loss. Two things occur that really impact your brain when your hearing begins to wain:

  • 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 hearing-related) gets reduced stimulation. This can cause alterations to your brain (in some circumstances, for example, your brain starts to prioritize visual stimuli; but that’s not true for everyone). 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 have hearing loss. As your hearing loss progresses, it might just seem simpler to stay inside to escape conversation. But this is a bad idea as it can rob your brain of that necessary stimulation.

Put together, these two things can be the cause of a major change in your brain. This cognitive decline has frequently been connected to loss of memory, problems concentrating, and (over time) increased risk of mental illness such as dementia.

Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?

So, this cognitive decline occurs because your hearing loss is being neglected. This means that the number one way to treat those declines is fairly clear: treat your hearing loss! In most cases, this means new hearing aids.

The degree to which hearing aids can slow mental decline is both unexpected and well-corroborated. Researchers at the University of Melbourne interviewed approximately 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some kind of hearing loss. Over 97% of those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months reported a stabilization or even reversal of that mental decline.

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

  • One of the principal functions of hearing aids is to keep you in your social circle. And the more social you can be, the more involved your brain stays. When you can follow conversations it’s much more fun to hang out with your friends.
  • Finding ways to keep your auditory cortex active would be helpful because stimulation is the key to mental health. This area of your brain will continue to be vital and healthy as long as you continue to hear ( with assistance from hearing aids).

Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea

This new study from the University of Melbourne isn’t an outlier. Numerous studies appear to back up the notion that hearing aids can help reduce cognitive decline, specifically when that decline would be accelerated by untreated hearing loss. The issue is that not everybody recognizes that they have hearing loss. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So if you’re feeling forgetful, strained, or even a bit spacier than normal, it might be worth talking with your hearing specialist.

That hearing aids are so successful doesn’t necessarily mean you should quit doing Sudoku or other brain games. They keep your brain refreshed and flexible and give you better overall cognitive function. 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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