Hearing Services of Nashville

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

Sudoku is a worldwide, popular puzzle game, largely because of its simplicity. All you require to play is a few grids, some numbers, and a pencil. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a pleasant way to pass the time. It’s an added bonus that it’s good for your brain.

“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular way of addressing cognitive decline. But there are other methods of slowing down cognitive decline. Current studies have shown that hearing aids might be capable of providing your brain with a nice little boost in mental activation, reducing the advancement of mental decline.

Mental Decline, What is it?

Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural pathways will fizzle without appropriate stimulus. Your brain has to create and strengthen neural pathways, that’s the reason why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.

While some mental decline is a normal process associated with aging, there are some factors that can hasten or worsen that decline. An especially potent risk for your cognitive health, as an example, is hearing loss. Two things take place that powerfully affect your brain when your hearing starts to wain:

  • You hear less: When you have less sound input, your auditory cortex (the part of your brain responsible for everything related to hearing) receives weakened stimulation. Your brain could end up changing in a way that makes it prioritize other senses like sight. Increased risk of mental decline has been linked 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. Staying in to escape conversations may 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 rob your brain of that necessary stimulation.

These two things, when combined, can cause your brain to change in significant ways. Loss of memory, problems concentrating, and ultimately a higher danger of dementia have been linked to this kind of mental decline.

Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?

So, this cognitive decline happens because your hearing loss is being neglected. This means that the best way to treat those declines is pretty obvious: treat your hearing impairment! In most cases, this means new hearing aids.

It’s well corroborated and also unexpected the degree that hearing aids can slow down mental decline. Around 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were surveyed by the University of Melbourne. Over 97% of those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months reported a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.

Just using hearing aids resulted in a nearly universal improvement. We can learn a couple of things from this:

  • One of the principal functions of hearing aids is to help you stay social. And the more social you can be, the more involved your brain stays. When you can understand conversations it’s a lot more enjoyable to socialize with your friends.
  • Stimulation is key to your mental health, so that means anything that keeps your auditory cortex active when it otherwise wouldn’t be, is probably helpful. This area of your brain will remain healthy and vital as long as you continue to hear ( with assistance from hearing aids).

Doesn’t Mean Sudoku is a Bad Idea

The University of Melbourne study isn’t an outlier. If you have untreated hearing loss, many studies have demonstrated that using hearing aids can help slow down cognitive decline. But many individuals have hearing loss and simply don’t recognize it. 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 spacey, forgetful, or strained.

That hearing aids are so effective 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 expand the overall cognitive strength of your executive functions. Exercising and keeping cognitively fit can be helped by both hearing aids and brain games.

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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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