Monday, June 15, 2020

Modifying Ear Savers for the Staff


Since the pandemic struck, obviously mask usage has skyrocketed.  For years, I had used a tie on surgical mask, mainly because I could not find an “ear loop” style mask that fit.

My problem wasn’t the mask itself, it was the darn ear loops.  For some reason, I guess my head is just a tad bigger than average (in actuality it might be *more* than just a tad) but after wearing a traditional ear loop mask for a few hours I began to feel my ears being pulled forward.  Then the pain would start.  Those little loops would start to dig in behind my ears and before long it was miserable.  So I gave up on them and went to tie-on masks.

It was only 2 years or so ago that I found an ear loop style that I could actually wear all day.  It took me a while to adjust to the slightly different feel of the 2 designs, but it wasn’t that long before I felt right at home in them.

So how does this tie in to making “ear savers” for the staff?

Well, once returned from the quarantine, we made lots of changes to our PPE.  One of the things we did was place  Level 3 surgical ear loop masks over our KN-95s.  It was both an effort to increase protection of the staff and also to help stretch our KN-95 supply a bit since they are in remarkably short supply.  However, this  put a “double ear loop” around the ears, plus it made the outer  one a bit tighter.  Soon sore ears were becoming a common problem.

While home during the quarantine, I spent a fair amount of time studying and learning about 3D printing.  I’d been tinkering in the field for a while, but I figured I could put the downtime to good use by becoming more proficient.  As I explored online, I came across the term “ear saver” which I hadn’t even heard of until then.  It seems that with almost everyone suddenly wearing ear loop style masks, the problem was pretty common.

The Ear Saver, as seen in the photo above, is sort of a headband with hooks.  The ear loops of the mask are attached to the hooks and it completely eliminates ear pain since the ears aren’t even used to hold the mask in place.  I wish I could say I’d thought of it, but I honestly don’t even know who did.

Once the problem showed up in my office, I begin producing them on my 3D printer at home and the staff has been grateful.  

Lately I’ve had requests for ones that are a touch longer and the great thing about 3D printing is that you can simply go into your design software and tell it to increase the size of your project “x” percent and all the calculations are made automatically.  Now I’m currently producing them 20% longer than the originals and I didn’t even need to make any design changes other than typing in a couple of numbers.

If you have access to a 3D printer and you have anyone with ears sore from the loops, simply search on Google.  There are a bunch of .stl files to be found.

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