They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s setting up the healthcare of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s becoming a lot more prevalent. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s overall care will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You most likely won’t have a problem 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 such as the annual checkup with a hearing specialist or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can have a profound impact.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to several mental and physical health problems, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you might be unknowingly increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by missing her hearing appointment. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This type of social isolation can happen very quickly when hearing loss sets in. So if you notice Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it might 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 regularly so this type of social solitude can result in cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s important that those signs are identified and treated.
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is important and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids operate at their optimal capacity when they are worn regularly.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If your parent is having trouble hearing you when you talk to them or seems to be turning the TV up louder and louder, encourage them to make an appointment for a hearing test.
- If you notice Mom avoiding phone conversations and staying away from social situations, the same is true. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in cases where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to pay attention to this every night.
- Once per year, people over the age of 55 should have a hearing exam. Make certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such an exam.
Preventing Future Health Issues
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel relatively unimportant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the evidence is pretty clear: treating hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious problems 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 afflictions in the future. Maybe you will stop depression early. You might even be able to decrease Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For many of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. You also may be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.