Best Practices

We’re all ears

We’re all ears

Tips for preventing ear discomfort when wearing a medical face mask

Frequent and long-term mask use comes with challenges for the public and healthcare professionals alike. There is little to worry about in terms of medical issues from mask use as long as your masks are from a reputable provider. However, that doesn’t mean that wearing a mask for hours at a time, day after day, might not cause some discomfort.

With face masks having become a standard accessory in and out of hospitals, many comments about ear discomfort and irritation can be found online. In this guide, we’ll look at actionable tips and approaches you can use to help reduce ear discomfort and make wearing a mask more comfortable at work, school, or while out and about.

Why quality matters

One of the most important things you can do to improve comfort and reduce ear irritation is to ensure you’re sourcing high quality masks. While most disposable surgical masks or examination masks might look similar, the details matter. For example, PRIMED single-use masks never use nanoform graphene and meet strict biocompatibility, breathability, and comfort standards.

This is a critical element in ensuring mask safety and comfort—including minimizing ear discomfort. Always look at any ratings or certifications for the masks you’re considering. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to investigate the packaging or reach out to the manufacturer for clarification.

Finding the right fit

Pressure and friction are the primary sources of mask discomfort during extended or frequent mask use. If you wear the mask too tightly, the ear loops can press into the delicate skin behind your ears. Wear it too loose, and the mask’s protective capabilities are compromised and it might rub and create sores. Finding that balance is essential.

Mask design can also play a massive role in the ability to find a good fit. For example, PRIMED’s masks include a flexible but sturdy nose piece to help create a snug fit that requires less pressure around the ears to keep the mask in place. You might also consider sizing. While most masks are generally one-size-fits-all solutions, there are pediatric masks available for smaller faces.

Earloop alternatives

Most masks you see in retail stores have ear loops. They use an elastic band that wraps around the back of the ear to hold the mask in place. Masks that tie behind the ear or head might offer a similar (or better) fit while alleviating the pressure and friction often experienced when using disposable masks with ear loops.

The importance of upkeep

Outside of fit, proper skin maintenance is one of the most effective ways to reduce and manage ear discomfort. Keeping the skin behind the ears clean and moisturized can go a long way. Using a hydrating cleanser behind your ears can help to encourage healing of any irritation or sores while also ensuring that dead skin, oil, and other debris are removed.

If you develop sores, adding a barrier such as a bandage, foam padding, or even a protective layer of petroleum jelly, can give the skin time to heal and prevent further irritation while allowing you to continue to wear your mask.

If the ear loops or ties on your mask become soiled or damp, changing them as often as possible can further help to reduce irritation while also reducing the risk of skin infections.

If all else fails, accessorize

If there is one thing that the events of the past year or more have proven, it’s that humans are ingenious and will figure out ways to address issues. As such, there are many products and approaches out there that, while we can’t specifically endorse, are very popular for reducing ear irritation and discomfort.

The first are what have been dubbed ear-savers. These are plastic or cloth strips with buttons, clasps, or hooks on the end.

Instead of looping the mask behind your ears, you loop them around the attachment points on the ear-savers. This allows you to get a tight fit without annoying your skin or creating sores.

If you opt for one of these choices while in a professional setting, it’s essential to consider safety and regulatory compliance. Quality, construction, materials, and efficacy might vary significantly from vendor to vendor. As such, due diligence is recommended before purchasing or using such a device or accessory.

Key takeaways

  • Ear discomfort is a common side effect of long-term or frequent mask usage.
  • Most discomfort stems from friction or pressure caused by ear loops.
  • Material choice can also influence discomfort.
  • Ensure a snug fit to prevent rubbing and optimize protective benefits.
  • If ear loop masks cause too much discomfort, masks with ties might offer a compelling alternative.
  • Clean skin is less likely to develop sores or irritation. As such regular cleaning and moisturizing can help to alleviate discomfort to prevent it     from occurring in the first place.
  • Ear-savers offer a simple way to both adjust mask fitment and prevent ear irritation when allowed.

PRIMED’s selection of single-use face masks features high quality materials and designs that optimize both performance and comfort–even during frequent use. They are ASTM-rated for use in professional environments yet affordable enough for everyday use by consumers. Contact us today or visit our online store for more information on how PRIMED’s industry-leading range of PPE solutions can help you.

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