Meet the Indiana couple helping front-line workers fight ear pain caused by face masks

WILLIAMSPORT, Ind. (WISH) – An Indiana couple from Williamsport is using creativity and technology to ease the pain many front line workers have from wearing face masks.

Debbie Slater is a pharmacy tech at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Williamsport. Slater says she has witnessed nurses and doctors suffering bruising around their face and pain behind their ears caused by wearing face masks for hours at a time.

“I was seeing that pain, and then one day, a doctor brought in an ear saver for one of the nurses and I knew this was it. This is how I could help,” said Slater.

Debbie enlisted the help of her husband Paul who is a retired mechanical engineer.

“I knew he could 3D print more of these at home, because he’s the one with the brains,” Debbie said proudly.

Paul took the ear saver his wife brought home and used his 3D printing software to make his own tweaks to it.

“I made the inside of it round instead of rectangular. I removed the knobs off of the spine and I put radii on it so when you handle it, it doesn’t feel sharp,” said Paul.

Paul says the ear savers do two things. First, it takes the strain off of the ear and second, it helps the mask fit better.

After handing out a few samples to colleagues, Debbie and Paul’s 3D printed creation caught the attention of the hospital newsletter.

Called BrightSpots, the newsletter was created by Ascension St. Vincent as a way to share positive stories happening around the state during the COVID-19 crisis.

Stories like the Slater’s 3D printed ear savers, which nursing staff 80 miles away in Fishers heard about.

Natalie Oliver, an ER Nurse Manager at Ascension St. Vincent Fishers Hospital, says the nursing staff was using safety pins and paper clips to alleviate ear pain, but now the entire nursing team in the Fishers ER is using Debbie and Paul’s ear savers.

“It’s a lot of pressure behind the ears, so I think even those small acts of kindness can really add up. Someone using their creativity and talents at home. It makes it more comfortable for us in an uncomfortable environment,” said Oliver.

It’s an act of kindness the Slater couple says, they are more than happy to do.

“I owe the hospitals over here a great debt, so whatever I can pay back it gives me the feel goods,” said Paul.