It’s known as 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 setting up the healthcare of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s becoming a lot more common. For caretakers, this implies investing a lot of time contemplating Mom or Dad’s all-around healthcare.
Scheduling 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 is sometimes missed, though, are things including the annual exam with a hearing care professional or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Importance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health problems have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you may be inadvertently increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This type of social isolation can occur very quickly after 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). Her hearing may be the real difficulty. And that hearing-induced separation 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 recognized and addressed.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is relevant 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:
- Anyone over 55 should be undergoing a hearing exam yearly. Be sure that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Consistent hearing aid use can help make sure that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in scenarios where they have rechargeable batteries). If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. If you observe the television getting a bit louder each week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
You’re already dealing with a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel rather insignificant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research demonstrates that a whole variety of more significant future health concerns can be prevented by treating hearing loss now.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions in the future. Maybe you will avoid depression early. You may even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s certainly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she should be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, also. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.