Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

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

Sudoku is one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, mainly because of its simplicity. All you need in order to play is a few grids, a pencil, and some numbers. A very enjoyable way to pass some hours, for many, is a soduku puzzle book. That it gives your brain a workout is an added bonus.

“Brain workouts” are becoming a popular way of addressing cognitive decline. But there are other means of delaying mental decline. Often, your brain requires a boost in mental stimulation and studies have demonstrated that hearing aids may be able to fill that role.

Cognitive Decline, What is it?

Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ. Without stimulation, neural connections have the tendency to fizzle. Your brain has to forge and reinforce neural pathways, that’s the reason why Sudoku works, it keeps you mentally active.

There are a few things that will speed up the process that would be an ordinary amount of mental decline connected with getting older. Hearing loss, for instance, can introduce an especially formidable risk for your cognitive health. Two things take place that powerfully impact your brain when your hearing starts to wain:

  • You can’t hear as well: With less sound input, your auditory cortex (the part of your brain responsible for everything related to hearing) receives weakened stimulation. Your brain may end up changing in a way that makes it prioritize other senses like sight. Increased danger of mental 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 in to steer clear of conversations may seem easier than going out and feeling self-conscious (especially as your untreated hearing loss progresses). This can deprive your brain of even more stimulation.

Together, these two factors can result in a major change in your brain. This cognitive decline has commonly been linked to loss of memory, trouble concentrating, and (in the long term) greater risk of mental disorders such as dementia.

Is Cognitive Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?

So if your hearing loss is overlooked, this kind of cognitive decline can be the consequence. And it’s pretty obvious what you need to do to reverse these declines: have your hearing loss treated. Normally, this means new hearing aids.

The degree to which hearing aids can slow mental decline is both surprising and well-substantiated. Scientists at the University of Melbourne surveyed approximately 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some kind of hearing loss. Among those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months, more than 97% reported 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:

  • One of the main functions of hearing aids is to help you stay social. And your brain remains more involved when you stay social. When you can hear conversations it’s much more enjoyable to talk with your friends.
  • Finding ways to activate your auditory cortex would be advantageous because stimulation is the key to mental health. This region of your brain will stay healthy and vital as long as you keep hearing ( with assistance from hearing aids).

Sudoko is Still a Good Idea

The University of Melbourne study isn’t the only one of it’s kind. Study after study seems to back up the notion that hearing aids can help slow down mental decline, specifically when that decline would be accelerated by untreated hearing loss. The problem is that not everybody recognizes that they have hearing loss. You might not even notice the early symptoms. So it’s worth making an appointment with your hearing specialist if you’ve been feeling a bit spacey, forgetful, or stressed.

That hearing aids are so successful doesn’t automatically mean you should quit doing Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and engaged in numerous 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.
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