They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties raising your kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s overall care will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You most likely won’t have an issue remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What is sometimes missed, though, are things including the annual exam with a hearing care professional or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
Hearing Health is Crucial For a Senior’s Overall Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Neglected hearing loss has been connected to several physical and mental health concerns, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unwittingly increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This sort of social separation can take place very quickly after hearing loss begins. So if you observe Mom starting to get a bit distant, it may not even be connected with her mood (yet). It could be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used on a regular basis so this kind of social solitude can lead to cognitive decline. So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You have no doubt that hearing is relevant and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other concerns. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. 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. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in scenarios where their devices are rechargeable). If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
- Once every year, people over the age of 55 should have a hearing test. Make certain that this yearly appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you observe the television getting a little louder every week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
Preventing Future Health Problems
You’re already dealing with a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel somewhat insignificant if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the evidence is fairly clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious issues over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly afflictions later on. Maybe you will stop depression early. You may even be able to lower Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near future.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.