It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s organizing the healthcare of your senior parents. The name “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s becoming a lot more common. For caretakers, this implies investing a lot of time thinking about Mom or Dad’s all-around care.

Setting up 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 falls through the cracks, though, are things such as the yearly exam with a hearing specialist or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a huge difference.

The Importance 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 crucial in a way that transcends your ability to communicate or listen to music. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health problems have been linked to neglected hearing loss.

So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unwittingly increasing her chances of developing these issues, including dementia. If Mom isn’t able to hear as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.

This kind of social separation can occur very quickly when hearing loss starts. So if you observe Mom starting to get a bit distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). It may be her hearing. And that hearing-induced separation can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.

How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority

Alright, you’re convinced. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other concerns. How can you make sure ear care is a priority?

There are a couple of things you can do:

  • 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.
  • Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in situations where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this every night.
  • Once every year, people over 55 should have a hearing test. Make sure 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 establish that these devices are working to their highest capacity.
  • Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you observe the television getting a bit louder each week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.

Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Avoided

You’re already trying to handle a lot, particularly if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem a little unimportant. But the research is fairly clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious problems in the long run.

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 begins. It’s even feasible 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 needs to be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, also. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.

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