They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s arranging the healthcare of your senior parents. The name “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s more and more common. For caretakers, this implies spending a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s total care.
Setting up an appointment for Dad to go to an oncologist or a cardiologist feels like a priority, so you aren’t likely to forget anything like that. But things like making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged or going to the annual hearing assessment can sometimes simply fall through the cracks. And those little things can make a big difference.
The Significance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to numerous mental and physical health problems, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing exam, you might be unknowingly increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. 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 starts, this kind of social isolation can happen very rapidly. So if you notice Mom beginning to get a little distant, it may not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing could be the real difficulty. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used on a regular basis so this kind of social separation can lead to cognitive decline. So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Alright, you’re convinced. You appreciate that hearing loss can snowball into more severe problems and hearing health is important. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids function at their greatest capacity when they are used 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.
- Anyone over 55 should be undergoing a hearing screening every year or so. Make sure that this yearly appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. 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.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make certain they charge them when they go to bed each night. If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to pay attention to this each night.
Making Certain That Future Health Concerns Are Prevented
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 direct issues, it can seem a little unimportant. But the research reveals that a wide range of more severe future health problems can be prevented by dealing with hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing expensive medical problems later. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. You might even be able to decrease Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near future.
For many of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s undoubtedly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she should be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, also. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.