They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re organizing the healthcare of your senior parents. The term “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s becoming more and more prevalent. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s overall healthcare.
You likely won’t have an issue remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What falls through the cracks, though, are things including the yearly exam with a hearing care professional or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a big difference.
The Value of Hearing to Senior 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 crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health issues have been connected to untreated hearing loss.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing appointment, you might be inadvertently increasing her risk of developing these issues, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This kind of social isolation can happen very quickly after hearing loss starts. So if you observe Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing might be the real difficulty. 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). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are identified and addressed.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other issues. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Once per year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing screening. Be sure that this yearly appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Hearing aids function at their greatest capacity when they are used consistently.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this every night.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you notice the TV getting a little louder each week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can pinpoint a problem.
- 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.
Combating Future Health Issues
You’re already dealing with a lot, specifically if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel rather insignificant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research shows that a wide variety of more significant future health problems can be avoided by managing hearing loss now.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions later on. You could head off depression before it begins. It’s even possible that dementia can be stopped or at least slowed.
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 should be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.