They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” When you’re in your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s coordinating the care of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s more and more common. This implies that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
Setting up 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. But things like making certain Dad’s hearing aids are recharged or going to the annual hearing assessment can sometimes just slip through the cracks. And those little things can have a powerful affect.
The Value of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to several physical and mental health concerns, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you may be inadvertently increasing her chances of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first begins, this kind of social isolation can take place very rapidly. You may think that mom is having mood problems because she is acting a bit distant but in actuality, that may not be the problem. Her hearing might be the real issue. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself ultimately result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and making sure 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 important and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. How can you make sure ear care is a priority?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to bed (at least in situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to check this every night.
- Once every year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing screening. Make certain that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Consistent hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are operating 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.
- 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.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate issues, it can seem a little unimportant. But the research shows that a wide variety of more severe future health issues can be avoided by managing hearing loss now.
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. Perhaps you will stop depression early. You might even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near future.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.