Easy on the ears: A student’s solution to make mask-wearing comfortable is finding its way to hospitals in Chennai

Tejas Gopalan’s device to make mask-wearing comfortable – the COVID-19 Ear Protector – is finding its way to hospitals in the city

May 06, 2020 05:23 pm | Updated May 07, 2020 12:19 pm IST

The COVID-19 Ear Protector

The COVID-19 Ear Protector

We may be relieved that masks are now compulsory for anyone stepping out, but what we don’t realise is that most of us have it easy as we need to wear them only when we are outdoors. On the other hand, doctors and medical practitioners — who wear them for hours at a stretch — have been dealing with nagging ear pain as the masks pull on their ears.

Chennai-based Tejas Gopalan’s COVID-19 Ear Protector aims at doing away with this issue. He has sold his first 10,000 pieces to Kauvery Hospital in the city, and is now in talks with MIOT and Apollo Spectra.

Flexi-solution

The product design student at Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design says the idea came about when his father developed an ear infection due to constantly wearing masks to his office, prior to the lockdown. Taking us through the process, he says he started off by sketching out simple ideas.

“I did some research online and came across a Canadian who had designed clips to protect ears. However, they did not ease the pressure and weren’t working universally with all masks,” says Gopalan, who started ideating on April 20 and had his first prototype ready three days later.

Tejas Gopalan

Tejas Gopalan

“I wanted to make a usable, more effective version of the clips. I started taking measurements of my family members and came up with a simple design that works for both, masks and face shields.” The device, which clips shut on the back of the head, does not come in contact with the ears and holds the mask firmly.

Soon, with the help of a local 3D printer, he had a test run and then started working on the material to use. “I chose High-Density Poly-Ethylene (HDPE) — the material we see in milk cartons, and can be recycled. I started production using the injection molding process,” says the 19-year-old, who is marketing the product through his father’s IOT company.

In addition to being adjustable, the ear shields are reusable and can be disinfected. “Once the first 10,000 pieces were delivered to Kauvery Hospitals, mass production began by the end of April. I am now manufacturing close to 20,000 pieces a day,” says Gopalan.

The COVID-19 Ear Protector being manufactured

The COVID-19 Ear Protector being manufactured

Going forward

While he is now working towards shipping orders received from hospitals in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune, he will soon make this an open-source design. “I have decided against a patent as it is important that design is made accessible to everyone at such times,” says Gopalan, who plans on working on similar COVID-related products, and aims at starting his own design studio in the future.

The COVID-19 Ear Protector is priced at ₹10 each. For details, mail tejas@hetrogenous.com

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