David Halbout, a technologist in the Communication Design Pathways Department, designed a face mask for people with hearing aids that has been recommended by the Hearing Health Foundation.
When the pandemic hit, he produced hundreds of face masks and donated them to local hospitals. He designed the masks with elastic straps that wrap around the head, as opposed to hooking over the ears; this style is typically used in healthcare settings, as it is more comfortable during long shifts.
Halbout also began selling the masks through the website for French Fix, the furniture and textile company he owns with his wife, textile artist Nathalie d’Iris. The masks are also available through their Etsy store.
They discovered that most of the people who bought their masks wore hearing aids, as masks with ear loops interfered with the devices. These customers asked for a version that was easier to put on and take off—as doing so would often knock out the hearing aids. A long process of ideation and design ensued.
Their final design has adjustable straps that can easily be loosened and tightened using sliding stoppers; pony beads prevent the stoppers from falling off the straps. The mask is comfortable and easy to put on and remove.
The masks are not only bought by people who wear hearing aids, but they also appeal to people with sensory processing issues and mobility challenges. The masks are also popular with the general public—and Halbout offers children’s sizes too.
“When I design furniture in my small business, comfort and ergonomic design are just as important as esthetics,” he says. “I applied the same principles to my mask design.