Do you have a senior older than 70 in your care? You have a lot to keep track of. You aren’t likely to forget to take a family member to an oncologist or a heart specialist because those are obvious priorities. What falls through the cracks, though, are the small things, such as the yearly exam with a hearing specialist or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those things are a bigger priority than you might think.
The Significance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Additionally, your hearing is essential in a way that goes beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to numerous mental and physical health problems, like loss of cognitive ability and depression.
So you unwittingly raise Mom’s risk of dementia by skipping her hearing consultation. Mom could start to isolate herself if she isn’t hearing well these days; she stops going to movies, doesn’t meet with her friends for tea, and eats dinner by herself in her room.
This kind of social separation can happen very quickly when hearing loss sets in. So if you notice Mom or Dad beginning to get a little distant, it may not be about their mood (yet). Hearing loss might be the problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself potentially bring about mental decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So recognizing the symptoms of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are addressed, is essential with regards to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Making Hearing a Priority
Alright, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is crucial and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. What steps should you take to make hearing a priority? Here are a few things you can do:
- Advise your parents to use their hearing aids each day. Routine hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are functioning to their optimum efficiency.
- Anyone above the age of 55 or 60 needs to be having a hearing screening every year or so. You should help a senior parent schedule and keep these appointments.
- Monitor your parents’ habits. If you notice the tv getting somewhat louder every week, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing professional to see if you can identify an issue.
- The same is the situation if you find a senior starting to segregate themselves, canceling on friends and staying inside more. A trip to come see us can help shed light on the occurrence of any hearing concerns.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (of course that particularly applies to rechargeable hearing aids).
Preventing Future Health Concerns
As a caregiver, you already have a lot to deal with, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing concerns can feel rather trivial if they aren’t causing immediate stress. But the evidence is quite clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious issues in the long run.
So you could be preventing costly illnesses later on in life by taking your loved one to their hearing consultation. You could head off depression before it begins. You may even be able to decrease Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For the majority 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 diligently. And that hearing aid will make your conversations with her much smoother and more pleasant.