The UCT Hearo: Our Ear Saver Solution

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in the number of individuals wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The most commonly used PPE is face masks (cloth and medical varieties) and face shields. The requirement to don this equipment extends beyond healthcare workers, with many governments recommending cloth face masks are worn by the general public. In South Africa, the government directive is that all individuals should wear cloth face masks in public places. The result is that a significant number of individuals are wearing face masks for a number of hours each day.

A number of secondary problems have arisen as a result of wearing face masks for long periods. These include skin lesions, irritant dermatitis and worsening acne (WHO 2020). Many masks are secured to the ears, causing skin irritation, pain and discomfort on the ears of the wearer. The severity of the problem is evinced by the number of “Ear Saver” solutions that have arisen in a few short months. We tested many designs but were not satisfied with what they had to offer.

In addition to the use of PPE, the World Health Organisation recommends physical distancing and good hand hygiene should be adhered to. Strict instructions are issued that one should never touch their face mask with their hands. Wearing a mask that is uncomfortable or ill-fitting increases the likelihood that the wearer will feel a need to adjust their face mask throughout the day.

Enter our solution, the UCT Hearo.

The UCT Hearo is designed to alleviate ear discomfort and prevent the need to touch your face mask throughout the day. The Hearo ensures your mask sits securely and comfortably over the nose and mouth. This is achieved by using the crown of your head to anchor the Hearo and in turn keep your face mask where it should be. Using the Hearo to anchor your mask rather than your ears has the added benefit of alleviating all the pain and discomfort your ears would typically experience.

The Hearo is lightweight, flexible and features a number of notches; meaning that it can be used for any mask and any head size. The Hearo is our solution to assisting frontline workers and the general public experience less discomfort and lower the chance of self-contamination by accidentally touching the face. The UCT Hearo is the solution to all-day face mask comfort.

Advantages: Comfortable fit, elastic does not touch ears, simple manufacturing (3D printing or laser cutting), does not slide down the back of the head, inexpensive.

3D printing recommendations:
Based on printing with Creality Ender 3 Pro

Material: PLA
Nozzle size: 0.4mm
Layer height: 0.2 mm
Extruder Temp: 215°C
Bed Temp: 60°C
Flow rate: 92%
Infill: 100%
Support: None
Approximate print time: 30min

Laser cutting recommendations:
Material: Laser safe plastic sheeting
Material thickness: 0.8mm - 1mm

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UCT is committed to help the COVID-19 pandemic by providing safe and effective solutions. Any 3D-printed devices that come into contact with the skin should meet the biocompatibility requirements stated in ISO 10993-1. If your specific performance needs are beyond the scope of the recommended material – which is non-biocompatible – please seek alternative solutions. UCT does not take responsibility for any harm caused as a result of using this product. For the most effective and safe use, the recommended manufacturing guidelines should be followed.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This work is inspired in part by the “Surgical facemask ear saver” by FirefighterBlu3 that is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that is available for public use. (