It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, taking care of 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, hence the name. And it’s becoming increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s overall care will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You most likely won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are recharged or making the annual hearing exam can sometimes simply fall through the cracks. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Value of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, outside of your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health concerns have been linked to neglected hearing loss.
So you may be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by missing 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.
This sort of social separation can occur very quickly after hearing loss sets in. You might think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in fact, that might not be the issue. Her hearing may be the real problem. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used regularly so this kind of social isolation can lead to cognitive decline. So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and making sure those signs are treated, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is essential and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other concerns. How can you be certain ear care is a priority?
A couple of 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 situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- Anyone over 55 needs to have a hearing test annually. Make certain that this annual appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids operate at their greatest capacity when they are used consistently.
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you notice the television getting a bit louder every week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
Combating Future Health Issues
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 somewhat trivial. But the research shows that a whole variety of more severe future health issues can be prevented by treating hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing tests are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding costly medical problems in the future. Maybe you will avoid depression early. You may even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
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 conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. You also may be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.