It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. When you’re in your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re organizing the care of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s more and more common. This implies that Mom and Dad’s general healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You likely won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What falls through the cracks, though, are things like the annual appointment with a hearing care professional or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can have a profound affect.
The Value of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, outside of your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s essential to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to numerous physical and mental health issues, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unintentionally increasing her chances of developing these issues, 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. So if you notice Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it may not even be connected with her mood (yet). It might be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used regularly so this type of social separation can result in cognitive decline. So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and making sure those signs are treated, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Make Sure Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other concerns. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where their devices are rechargeable). If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- 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.
- 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.
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their highest capacity.
- Once per year, people over the age of 55 should have a hearing screening. Be sure that this annual appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
Preventing Future Health Issues
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem slightly insignificant. 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 take Mom to her hearing exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly ailments later on. Maybe you will stop depression early. You might even be able to decrease Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term 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 needs to be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.