Intellectual property patent status

For all healthcare professionals and patients, long hours in face masks can cause discomfort and damage to the ear area. A new innovation from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) offers a protective cushioning to remove these negative effects and significantly improve user experience.

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Abrasion injuries to the ear area from face masks are common in the patient care fields, causing pain and discomfort to medical, dental, and care professionals. In addition, due to covid-19, there has been a significant increase in the use of face masks by the general public – particularly with those who are immune compromised, elderly, or those in customer-facing roles – who now suffer the same discomfort during long periods of use.

The solution

To resolve this issue, Dstl have created a soft, comfortable, squishy ‘ear bean’ that alleviates pressure on the ears to ensure people can work and use face masks without discomfort or injury. Made from foam polymer, the design is simple, lightweight, low-cost, effective, and reusable – reducing the quantity of plastic waste created.

The innovation fits around the ear and contains a lengthways groove to hold the face mask strap away from the skin to prevent pressure sores. More cushioning regions can also be added to further improve the fit and comfort for the wearer. Typically, these regions will be where contact to the skin of the ear, or the head, occurs. Although discrete, the ear beans offer limitless possibilities for personalisation through different colour designs and branding options.

Key benefits

  • The design is simple, which allows for low-cost manufacturing at scale.
  • The foam material is soft and mouldable, so is customisable in shape and size to fit the user.
  • Different patterns and designs can be added to appeal to wearers and add company branding.
  • The ear beans are reusable, which minimises plastic waste.
  • It is cheap and easy to disinfect the ear beans to keep them hygienic.
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Potential applications

Patient care applications

In all areas of patient care, the discomfort and pain of wearing face masks for long periods can be alleviated with this lightweight, low-cost, customisable innovation that improves user comfort.

Over the long-term, this removal of abrasions and pressure sores can improve staff morale and improve staff health and safety by removing the risk of pain and injury to the ear area. The reusable nature of the ear bean also makes it a more sustainable option, and keeps costs minimal.

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Individual use applications

For patients, the elderly, immune compromised, those in customer-facing roles, and members of the general public who choose to wear face masks, this affordable and customisable option significantly improves user experience and comfort.

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