It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. In your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare requirements fills your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s more and more common. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time thinking about Mom or Dad’s total care.
Scheduling an appointment for Dad to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. What is sometimes missed, though, are things including the yearly checkup with a hearing care professional or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a big difference.
Hearing Health is Essential For a Senior’s Overall 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. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health issues have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So you may be inadvertently increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by skipping her hearing appointment. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first starts, this type of social isolation can happen very quickly. You may think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a bit distant but in actuality, that might not be the issue. Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced separation can itself ultimately bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are treated, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You recognize that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious problems and hearing health is significant. How can you be certain ear care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Anyone over 55 should be undergoing a hearing screening every year or so. Make certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids daily. Consistent hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make sure they charge them when they go to sleep every night. If they are living in a home, ask the staff to pay attention to this each night.
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you observe the television getting a little louder every week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues 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 hearing problems can feel somewhat unimportant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research demonstrates that a whole range of more severe future health issues can be avoided by treating hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing tests are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding costly medical conditions in the future. Maybe you will avoid depression early. You may even be able to lower Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near future.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s undoubtedly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. You also might be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.