With the holidays approaching, as we all gather to reflect and connect with family and friends, it’s a great opportunity to check in with your brain health.
Each year’s passing, whether you’re aware of it or not, is packed with cognitive changes, and all of these changes over time play a part in whether or not you’re at risk for brain health issues such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

The silver lining in paying attention to your brain health during this magical time of year is that some of the holiday musical traditions you may be accustomed to also may play a part in your cognitive abilities.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, certain therapies have proven effective in helping patients recall memories and emotions. Researchers have found that music improves mental performance, effectively awakening memories in people who have undergone music therapy.1 Both singing along
and listening to music are helpful, with those singing along displaying the most improvement. Researchers attribute this boost in brain activity to the following factors:

  • Music evokes emotion that can restore memory more effectively than anything else. Incorporating music into everyday activities can help patients develop a rhythm that allows them to recall the memory of that activity.
  • Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This makes it easier to reach patients whose disease has progressed.
  • Music fosters emotional and physical closeness. As dementia advances, the ability to share emotions declines. Music helps by encouraging dancing, which in turn can lead to physical contact. That may bring security and memories.
  • Music can change mood, help patients manage stress, stimulate positive interactions and improve cognitive function. Music requires little or no mental processing, freeing up cognitive regions of the brain.

In short, however you may be spending this holiday season—whether virtually or in-person—don’t forget about the musical traditions! Your brain will thank you.

1 Napoletan, A., & Napoletan, A. (2017). Music Therapy For Dementia: Awakening Memories. Retrieved 27 May 2020, from
National Audiology Awareness Month provides an opportunity to foster awareness of hearing health and the importance of hearing protection. For the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, everyday life is a challenge. Navigating through a global pandemic is even tougher.
While face masks have become standard issue for most people, those with hearing loss who rely on lip-reading and facial cues have trouble understanding what people with masks on are saying. Additionally, cloth masks have been shown to reduce high-frequency sounds, presenting another barrier to the deaf and hard of hearing.

As such, the race is on to create a clear face mask that offers protection from COVID-19 while allowing patients with hearing difficulties to follow conversations more easily.

One resourceful group leading the way, the audiology students at the University of Akron and Kent State University in Ohio, are working on a design that features a clear vinyl opening at the mouth.1 The students, all of whom are pursuing doctoral degrees, were aware of the problems people with hearing loss faced in the absence of visual cues and wanted to help these individuals.

The team then borrowed plans and schematics from audiology students in neighboring Kentucky, bought materials, and got to work on their own masks. They were able to create about 100 masks in all—enough for every student in the audiology programs to use them in clinics, with some additional ones for staff.

Other manufacturers are following suit. The Clear Mask™ is an FDA-approved, fully transparent mask. The anti-fog transparent plastic barrier protects from aerosols, fluids and sprays and is available in two styles: adjustable straps and tie-ons.2

Meanwhile, Safe ‘n’ Clear, Inc. developed The Communicator™, an FDA-registered surgical mask with a fog-resistant clear window for better communication. It’s designed to protect both health care workers and patients.3

As the pandemic rages on, other companies are creating clear face masks of their own. That’s music to the ears of the deaf and hard of hearing.
Exostosis, commonly known as “surfer’s ear,” is a condition that causes bone to thicken, leading to a narrowing (and occasionally, a complete blockage or “occlusion”) of the ear canal. It can result in significant conductive hearing loss over time. Exostosis is common not just for surfers but for those who ski, snowboard, fish, kayak and sail.

As the ear canal narrows, water, dirt and earwax can become trapped inside, resulting in frequent ear infections. The infections, as well as a loss of hearing and the sensation of “plugged up” ears that do not drain, are the primary symptoms of surfer’s ear. The condition itself is not dangerous, but left untreated, the danger of occlusion and accompanying hearing loss increases.

Treatment usually involves an outpatient surgical procedure known as canalplasty. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A surgeon uses a binocular microscope and drills or chisels out the bone growth. The surgeon usually performs this surgery through the ear canal, but may also make an incision behind the ear. While recovering from this procedure, it is very important not to expose the ear canal to water, which could lead
to further infections. Recovery takes between a few weeks and a few months.

Avoiding outdoor sports, especially surfing and swimming, in extremely cold water or especially windy conditions, is the key to preventing surfer’s ear. In addition, keeping the ear canals warm and dry by wearing earplugs, a swim cap or a hood can all help. Custom earmolds are your best bet to ensuring a tight seal and all-day comfort.
To learn more or to get your own set of custom earmolds, call today to schedule an appointment.