They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties raising your kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare requirements fills your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s becoming more and more common. For caretakers, this implies investing a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s total care.
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. But things like making certain Dad’s hearing aids are recharged or making the annual hearing exam 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. Additionally, 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 you could be unknowingly increasing the risk that she will develop these issues by missing her hearing appointment. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first sets in, this sort of social isolation can happen very rapidly. You may think that mom is experiencing mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in fact, that might not be the problem. Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually result in 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 addressed, is essential when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You acknowledge that hearing loss can snowball into more serious problems and hearing health is essential. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- 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 your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to do this.
- Be mindful of 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.
- Once every year, people over 55 should have a hearing screening. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- 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 remember to wear their hearing aids daily. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
Avoiding Future Health Issues
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel somewhat trivial if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the research is fairly clear: treating hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range 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 avoiding much more costly ailments later on. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. It’s even possible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed down.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should 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.