They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re organizing the healthcare of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s more and more common. This means that Mom and Dad’s total care will need to be considered by caretakers.
You most likely won’t have an issue remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged or going to the yearly hearing exam can sometimes just fall through the cracks. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
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 essential to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health problems have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing appointment, you could be unintentionally increasing her chances of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first starts, this sort of social isolation can occur very rapidly. You might think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little distant but in actuality, that may not be the issue. Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are identified and treated.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other problems. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- 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.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to bed (at least in situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this every night.
- 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.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids function at their greatest capacity when they are worn regularly.
- Anybody over 55 needs to have a hearing screening every year or so. Make certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing troubles can feel somewhat unimportant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the evidence is fairly clear: treating hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious issues in the long run.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly conditions down the road. Perhaps you will stop depression early. It’s even possible that dementia can be stopped or at least slowed down.
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 should be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. You also may be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.