It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s setting up the healthcare of your senior parents. The name “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s increasingly common. For caretakers, this implies investing a lot of time contemplating Mom or Dad’s overall care.
You most likely won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What falls through the cracks, though, are things such as the yearly checkup with a hearing specialist or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a big difference.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, outside of your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to numerous physical and mental health concerns, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing appointment, you may be unintentionally increasing her chances of developing these issues, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This sort of social isolation can take place very quickly after hearing loss sets in. You might think that mom is experiencing mood problems because she is acting a bit distant but in fact, that may not be the issue. Her hearing could be the real issue. And that hearing-induced separation can itself ultimately result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s crucial that those signs are recognized and addressed.
How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is important and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other problems. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you notice the television getting a little louder each week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- Every day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their highest capacity.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Anyone over 55 should be undergoing a hearing screening annually. Be sure that this annual appointment is made for your parents and kept.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Prevented
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel somewhat trivial if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research is quite clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious issues in the long run.
So when you take Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly conditions later on. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. It’s even possible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed.
For most of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.