They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re coordinating the care of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s more and more common. This means that Mom and Dad’s general healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You likely won’t have an issue remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged or making the annual hearing test can sometimes simply fall through the cracks. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
The Significance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. In addition, your hearing is essential in a way that goes beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health concerns have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing appointment, you may be inadvertently increasing her risk of developing these issues, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first sets in, this kind of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you observe Mom starting to get a bit distant, it may not have anything to do with her mood (yet). It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced separation can itself ultimately lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are treated, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You recognize that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe problems and hearing health is essential. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- If you notice Mom avoiding phone conversations and staying away from social situations, the same is true. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. 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.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Daily hearing aid use can help make sure that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make sure they keep them charged when they go to bed every night. If they are living in a home, ask the staff to pay attention to this each night.
- Once per year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing exam. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem slightly unimportant. But the research is pretty clear: treating hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious issues in the long run.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions down the road. You could block depression before it starts. It’s even possible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed down.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s definitely worth a quick heads up to Mom that she should be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.