They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re arranging 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. For caretakers, this means investing a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s all-around care.
Scheduling an appointment for Dad to go to an oncologist or a cardiologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. What falls through the cracks, though, are things such as the yearly exam with a hearing care professional or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Importance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health issues have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing exam, you may be unknowingly increasing her risk of developing these issues, including dementia. 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 happen very quickly when hearing loss sets in. You may think that mom is experiencing mood issues because she is acting a bit distant but in reality, that may not be the issue. Her hearing could be the real issue. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are addressed, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious issues and hearing health is essential. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
There are a few things you can do:
- Once per year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing exam. Be certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such an exam.
- 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.
- Keep an eye on 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 remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in cases where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to pay attention to this every night.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Consistent hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are working to their highest capacity.
Preventing Future Health Problems
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, notably if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel rather insignificant if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the evidence is quite clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious issues in the long run.
So by making certain those hearing appointments are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical conditions later. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be stopped or at least slowed down.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s certainly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. You also might be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.