It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies 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 increasingly common. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time thinking about Mom or Dad’s all-around healthcare.
Scheduling an appointment for Mom to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. But things like making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged or making the yearly hearing test can sometimes just slip through the cracks. And those little things can have a profound impact.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior 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. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health problems have been linked to neglected hearing loss.
So you might be unknowingly increasing the risk that she will develop these issues by skipping her hearing appointment. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first sets in, this kind of social isolation can happen very rapidly. So if you observe Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). It might be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used on a regular basis so this type of social solitude can lead to cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are identified and addressed.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You recognize that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe issues and hearing health is important. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids function at their optimal capacity when they are used consistently.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make certain they charge them when they go to bed each night. If they are living in a 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. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Anyone over the age of 55 or 60 should be undergoing a hearing exam yearly. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you observe the TV getting a little louder each week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.
Avoiding Future Health Problems
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem somewhat unimportant. But the research shows that a wide range of more severe future health problems can be prevented by managing hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing tests are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding expensive medical conditions later. Perhaps you will stop depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s undoubtedly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she should be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.