They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The term “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s more and more common. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time considering 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. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are recharged or making the yearly hearing assessment can sometimes just fall through the cracks. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
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. Furthermore, beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to numerous mental and physical health issues, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you might be inadvertently increasing the risk that she will develop these problems by skipping her hearing exam. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This sort of social isolation can take place very quickly after hearing loss starts. You may think that mom is experiencing mood problems because she is acting a little bit distant but in reality, that may not be the issue. It could be her hearing. And that hearing-induced separation can itself eventually result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s important that those signs are identified and addressed.
Alright, you’re convinced. You appreciate that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious problems and hearing health is essential. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Anyone over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing exam annually. Be certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make sure they keep them charged when they go to bed every night. If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
- 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.
- Be mindful of 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.
- Every day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Daily hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
You’re already dealing with a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem a little trivial. But the research is quite clear: managing hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious issues over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly ailments later on. You could head off depression before it begins. You might even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. You also might be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.