Making It Easier on the Ears

People are churning out bits of plastic that make protective masks less painful for healthcare workers

 By Erika Morris

Photo: iStock/RapidEye.

Many of us at home have been wondering what we can do to play our part during the coronavirus pandemic. One 12-year-old Scout from British Columbia has been busy churning out a bit of protective gear for healthcare workers on his 3-D printer, and now hundreds of others are doing the same.

Seventh-grader Quinn Callander has now printed and shipped hundreds of “ear guards” around the world. The small devices make protective masks less uncomfortable, even painful, to wear.

Callander saw online that a family friend who is local nurse was looking for something like the guard to help. He hopped on the Internet, found a design, and got to work with the 3-D printer he’d received as a birthday present from his parents. The device is simple—a notched strap: the bands of the masks are looped through the notches on the strap instead of behind the ears, where the elastic bands exert pressure and chafe. The ear guards relieve pressure on the face, as well.

After Callander had printed an initial batch of a few dozen, his mother sent out a tweet and posted the photos on Facebook, and requests began to flow in. People around the world are now reaching out to order the ear guards or to get the design to print them themselves.

Callander has his printer set to print them 24/7 and makes eight ear guards every four hours with a cost of production of about 9 cents each.

The project was originally part of a Scouts Canada contest to showcase what people are doing to help during the pandemic, and the tweets his mother sent out went viral. Since early April, more than 60,000 people have downloaded the template to make their own ear guards.