It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills 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 becoming a lot more prevalent. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s total 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 is sometimes missed, though, are things like the annual exam with a hearing care professional or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a major difference.
Hearing Health is Essential For a Senior’s General 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 problems have been connected to untreated hearing loss.
So you might be inadvertently increasing the risk that she will develop these problems by missing her hearing exam. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first begins, this sort of social isolation can happen very quickly. You might think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in reality, that may not be the issue. It could be her hearing. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is essential when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Alright, you’re convinced. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other problems. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to bed (at least in scenarios where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to pay attention to this each night.
- 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, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- Anybody over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing screening annually. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such an exam.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Hearing aids function at their greatest capacity when they are worn consistently.
- 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.
Preventing Future Health Problems
You’re already dealing with a lot, particularly if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem slightly trivial. But the evidence is fairly clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious issues in the long run.
So by making certain those hearing appointments are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical problems later. You could block depression before it begins. It’s even possible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. You also might be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.