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 organizing the healthcare of your senior parents. The label “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s becoming increasingly common. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
Setting up an appointment for Mom to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. But things like making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged or going to the annual hearing test can sometimes simply slip through the cracks. And those little things can make a big 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 listen to music or communicate, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to numerous physical and mental health concerns, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unwittingly increasing her chances 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 isolation can occur very quickly when hearing loss starts. You may think that mom is having mood problems because she is acting a little bit distant but in fact, that might not be the problem. It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced separation can itself eventually bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is important and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other issues. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make certain they keep them charged when they go to bed each night. If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
- Anybody over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing test 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 you notice the television getting a bit louder every week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are working to their highest capacity.
- 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns 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 rather trivial if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research is quite clear: managing hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious problems in the long run.
So by making sure those hearing appointments are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical problems later. Maybe you will stop depression early. You may even be able to decrease Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s certainly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, also. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.