It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You go through your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s coordinating the healthcare of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s more and more common. For caretakers, this implies spending a lot of time thinking about Mom or Dad’s all-around care.
You probably won’t have a problem remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged or making the annual hearing test can sometimes just fall through the cracks. And those little things can make a major difference.
Hearing Health is Important For a Senior’s General Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. What’s more, your hearing is essential in a way that goes beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health issues have been connected to untreated hearing loss.
So you might be unknowingly increasing the chances that she will develop these issues by skipping her hearing exam. If Mom isn’t able to hear as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first begins, this type of social isolation can occur very quickly. So if you observe Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). It could be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used regularly so this kind of social separation can lead to cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s important that those signs are identified and addressed.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is important and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other problems. How can you be certain ear care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make sure they charge them when they go to bed every night. If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- 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.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Consistent hearing aid use can help make sure that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you notice the television getting a little louder every week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can pinpoint a problem.
- Anyone over 55 needs to have a hearing test yearly. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
Avoiding Future Health Problems
You’re already trying to handle a lot, particularly if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel relatively insignificant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research shows that a wide variety of more severe future health concerns can be prevented by treating hearing loss now.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions down the road. You could head off depression before it begins. You might even be able to decrease Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For most 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 vigilantly. You also may be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.