It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s setting up the healthcare of your senior parents. The label “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s becoming more and more prevalent. This means that Mom and Dad’s overall care will need to be considered by caretakers.
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. What is sometimes missed, though, are things like the annual checkup with a hearing specialist or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
The Value of Hearing to Senior 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 listen to music or communicate. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to numerous physical and mental health issues, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you might be unknowingly increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This sort of social separation can occur very quickly after hearing loss starts. So if you observe Mom starting to get a bit distant, it may not have anything to do with her mood (yet). It may be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and making sure those signs are treated, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You have no doubt that hearing is relevant and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other problems. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you observe the TV getting a little louder every week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to find out 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.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make certain they charge them when they go to bed each night. If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- Every day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help make sure that these devices are operating to their maximum capacity.
- Once per year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing screening. Make certain that this annual appointment is made for your parents and kept.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel somewhat unimportant if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the evidence is pretty clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious issues over time.
So by making certain those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing expensive medical conditions later. You could head off depression before it starts. It’s even feasible that dementia can be stopped or at least slowed.
For many of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.