They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s overall healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
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. What falls through the cracks, though, are things including the annual exam with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Significance of Hearing to Senior 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 essential to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health problems have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you may be unwittingly 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 kind of social isolation can happen very quickly after hearing loss sets in. You might think that mom is having mood problems because she is acting a little distant but in fact, that may not be the problem. It may be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are addressed, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is relevant and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other problems. How can you make sure ear care is a priority?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Anybody over 55 should be undergoing a hearing exam yearly. Make certain that this annual appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to bed (at least in cases where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- 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.
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
- 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
You’re already dealing with a lot, specifically if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing troubles can feel somewhat insignificant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research is pretty clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious problems in the long run.
So by making certain those hearing appointments are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing expensive medical conditions later. Perhaps you will stop depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s definitely worth a quick heads up to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. You also may be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.