It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re coordinating the healthcare of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s increasingly common. This implies that Mom and Dad’s overall healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
You likely won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What falls through the cracks, though, are things including the yearly appointment with a hearing specialist or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Significance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, outside of your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health issues have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unwittingly increasing her chances of developing these issues, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This sort of social separation can happen very quickly after hearing loss begins. You might think that mom is having mood problems because she is acting a little bit distant but in actuality, that may not be the problem. It could be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You appreciate that hearing loss can snowball into more serious problems and hearing health is essential. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Anybody over 55 needs to have a hearing test yearly. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you observe the television getting a little louder each week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (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 each night.
- 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem a little trivial. But the research is pretty clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious problems over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly conditions in the future. You could block depression before it begins. It’s even possible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed.
For most 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 able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.