homehealthcare NewsA design student’s innovation is easing the strain on doctors wearing masks for hours at a stretch

A design student’s innovation is easing the strain on doctors wearing masks for hours at a stretch

A design student’s innovation is easing the strain on doctors wearing masks for hours at a stretch
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By Jude Sannith  May 4, 2020 4:47:35 PM IST (Updated)

A 19-year-old design student’s innovation could make a small yet empathetic contribution to the comfort and well-being of doctors, amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Tejas Gopalan, an undergraduate student at the National Institute of Design, has designed an ear-guard with the aim of easing the strain on doctors who wear the N95 mask for several hours at a stretch.

A 19-year-old design student’s innovation could make a small yet empathetic contribution to the comfort and well-being of doctors, amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Tejas Gopalan, an undergraduate student at the National Institute of Design, has designed an ear-guard with the aim of easing the strain on doctors who wear the N95 mask for several hours at a stretch.

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His ear protector now has three major hospital chains in Chennai considering the prospect of buying the product in bulk to help doctors cope with long hours of wearing N95 masks.
“The idea dawned upon me last month when my father developed an infection by his ear when he began wearing masks regularly while going about his work which falls under an essential service category,” says Tejas, “While I was chatting up with doctors at Kauvery Hospital (in Chennai), I heard that this was a problem for doctors at the hospital too — masks are worn over a period of time leave rashes by the ear.”
With the singular aim of finding a solution to the problem, Tejas began working on a design that would ensure contactless mounting of N95 or any other mask for that matter. The solution lay in designing simple yet flexible headgear that could be worn behind the head, which would, in turn, let the mask straps sit on it as opposed to the ear.
This way, the mask in question would not come in contact with the ear and would allow doctors to wear it for several hours every day.
Tejas named his innovation the COVID-19 Ear Protector and began marketing it under the banner of his father’s company, Hetrogenous Communications. “In due course, we got our first order from Kauvery Hospital, which bought our first batch of 10,000 ear protectors,” he says, “We are also in talks with hospitals like MIOT and Apollo to buy our protectors for their doctors.”
Doctors who have begun using Tejas’ ear protector are reporting favourable results. “The need for an innovation like this came to be because doctors who wear N95 masks need to ensure that it fits tightly around their face so that it is airtight,” says Dr. Manivannan Selvaraj, Founder, and Managing Director, Kauvery Group of Hospitals.
“Unfortunately, masks today have straps that can only go around the ears,” Dr. Manivannan adds, “In India, we don’t have access to various sizes of N95 masks, either. So, it’s a case of one-size-fits-all that we have to contend with, which only adds more strain to the ears."
Dr. Manivannan says that that the ear protector has begun getting particularly good reviews after being used by nurses in isolation wards who tend to wear masks for much longer hours than doctors.
Designing an ear protector, though, was no walk in the park. “Our prototype was made of plastic, but we wanted to avoid it altogether. So, the material we finally zeroed in on is made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene),” says Tejas, “But we want to continue innovating on the material to ensure that we have a product that’s recyclable.”
Manufacturing the protector presented a whole new host of challenges. Tejas took an entire week to make his first batch of 10,000 units owing to material and mould testing that had to be done. But he says that his manufacturers, Chennai-based Precious 3D, are confident of churning out 20,000 units every day. A protector is priced at Rs 10 per unit.
The challenges don’t end here. “We need to ensure that there’s a proper supply chain, even amidst the lockdown so that we get our hands on material and send out our products for delivery,” says Tejas. The design student has decided against patenting his product and wants to open-source the design. “It’s the right thing to do at this hour of crisis,” he says, “We must do everything we can to everybody gets access to the innovation.”
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