McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

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Sudoku is a worldwide, popular puzzle game, mainly because of its simplicity. A pencil, some numbers, and a few grids are all you need. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a relaxing way to pass the time. That it gives your brain a workout is an additional perk.

It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to address mental decline. But there are other methods of slowing down mental decline. Recent research has revealed that hearing aids may be able to provide your brain with a nice little boost in mental activation, slowing the advancement of mental decline.

Cognitive Decline, What is it?

Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Neural connections will fizzle without appropriate stimulation. That’s why Sudoku tends to keep you mentally active: it causes your brain to think, to creatively make and strengthen numerous neural pathways.

There are some things that will hasten the process that would be an ordinary amount of cognitive decline connected with getting older. Hearing loss, for example, can provide a really potent peril for your cognitive health. When your hearing begins to diminish, two things happen that powerfully affect your brain:

  • 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 changes in your brain (in some circumstances, for instance, your brain starts to prioritize visual information; but that isn’t true for everyone). These changes have been connected to an increased danger of mental decline.
  • You go out less: Self isolation is a very detrimental behavior, but that’s exactly what some individuals do when they have hearing loss. As your hearing loss increases, it might just seem simpler to stay inside to escape conversation. This can deprive your brain of even more stimulation.

Put together, these two factors can cause a major change in your brain. This mental decline has commonly been linked to loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, and (over time) higher risk of mental illness including dementia.

Will Hearing Aids Reverse Declines?

So, this cognitive decline happens because your hearing loss is going untreated. And it’s fairly clear what you need to do to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment treated. For the majority of people with hearing loss, that means a shiny new pair of well-calibrated hearing aids.

The amount that hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-corroborated. Approximately 100 people with hearing loss from the age of 62 to age 82 were interviewed by the University of Melbourne. Among those adults who wore their hearing aids for at least 18 months, more than 97% said that their mental decline either stabilized or reversed.

That’s a nearly universal improvement, simply from wearing hearing aids. That tells us a couple of things:

  • Finding ways to activate your auditory cortex would be helpful because stimulation is essential to mental well being. As long as you continue to hear (assisted by hearing aids), this essential area of your brain will continue to be stimulated, dynamic, and healthy.
  • One of the primary functions of hearing aids is to keep you in your social circle. And the more social you are, the more engaged your brain remains. It’s easier (and more fun) to talk with your friends when you can follow the conversation!

Sudoko is Still a Smart Idea

The University of Melbourne study isn’t the only one of it’s kind. Numerous studies appear to back up the notion that hearing aids can help reduce cognitive decline, particularly when that decline would be hastened by untreated hearing loss. But many individuals have hearing loss and simply aren’t aware of it. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So if you’re feeling strained, forgetful, or even a bit spacier than usual, it might be worth checking with your hearing specialist.

You should still continue doing Sudoko and other brain games. Keeping your brain nimble and engaged in numerous different ways can help broaden the overall cognitive strength of your executive functions. Exercising and keeping mentally fit can be helped by both hearing aids and brain games.

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