They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” When you’re in your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare needs 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 contemplating Mom or Dad’s total care.
Making an appointment for Mom to go to an oncologist or a cardiologist feels like a priority, so you aren’t likely to forget anything like that. What falls through the cracks, though, are things such as the annual checkup with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
The Value 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 transcends your ability to communicate or listen to music. Neglected hearing loss has been connected to several mental and physical health concerns, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unintentionally increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t able to hear as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first starts, this sort of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you observe Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). It could be her hearing. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually lead to 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 important that those signs are identified and treated.
How to Make Sure Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe problems and hearing health is essential. How can you be certain ear care is a priority?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Every day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids operate at their optimal capacity when they are worn consistently.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once per year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing test. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where their devices are rechargeable). If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
Preventing Future Health Issues
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing direct problems, it can seem slightly insignificant. But the research shows that a wide range of more serious future health problems can be avoided by managing hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding expensive medical conditions later. Maybe you will avoid depression early. It’s even possible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed down.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. You also may be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.