Addenbrooke’s Hospital design new face mask to give deaf or hearing impaired access to full facial expressions – Cambridgeshire Live

A new transparent face mask that was designed at Addenbrooke’s Hospital has now been given the seal of approval to be available for NHS staff across the UK who are caring for lip-reading patients. The face mask allows the deaf or hearing impaired to have access to full facial expressions to help with understanding and communication.

Called the Panoramic Mio-Mask™ it was designed at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge in response to COVID-19 and has now been given the official clear to be used across the UK. The new face mask sets it apart from the limited number of approved surgical masks that have a window over the mouth.

It has been officially registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a CE-marked medical mask, meaning it follows health, safety and environmental protection standards in Europe. Before it was cleared for use it went through a number of tests which focused on “filtration efficiency, breathability, splash resistance and microbial cleanliness.

Read more: Addenbrooke’s Hospital to get new operating theatres to ease waiting times

“It also underwent visibility tests and independent evaluation of the biocompatibility of its constituent materials” explains CUH.

Work to design the new transparent mask was in response to Junior Sister, Emma Ayling who highlighted the need. Emma managed the Rosie Hospital Outpatient Department, wears hearing aids and is an accomplished lip-reader.

Emma who shortly takes on the new role of gynaecology matron said: “We are so looking forward to being able to use these masks in a clinical setting where we know they will be much appreciated by patients who reply on lip reading to effectively communicate with others”.

Other system partners also highlighted the “clinical need for a transparent mask but the procurement teams found there was nothing on the market that gave them the level of protection and function required”. Addenbrooke’s Clinical Engineering Innovation Department headed by Professor Paul White took on the challenge to design the new mask.

Abi Bush, now joint head of Clinical Engineering Innovation
Abi Bush, now joint head of Clinical Engineering Innovation
(Image: CUH)

Innovation Engineer, Abi Bush was appointed project lead with clinical scientist Dr Tom Griffiths, and Medical Physicist, Dr Hannah Price. Workshops were set up to review different designs and a St Neots-based manufacturing partner, LJA Miers also provided input to make the mask suitable for mass manufacture.

Abi Bush said: “This was an incredible example of clinical staff, engineers and industry working together to find a practical solution to a very real problem.

“The mask will drastically improve communication between patients and staff, and be of particular use in speech and language and audio clinics where it is important to see mouth movements or lip read.

“We are really grateful to Tony Barber and his team at LJA Miers for their persistence in working through this process, which we are delighted to see come to a successful conclusion.”

Professor Paul White headed Addenbrooke’s Clinical Engineering Innovation Department
Professor Paul White headed Addenbrooke’s Clinical Engineering Innovation Department
(Image: CUH)

Professor Paul White added: “I am incredibly proud of my team, and grateful to our partners, for all that we have achieved at what has been a very challenging time for the NHS.

“In addition to other benefits, the absence of metal component means the mask can be worn by patients and those administering MRI scans, and in operating theatres where communication between surgeons is especially challenging using non-transparent PPE.”

Tony Barber said his company was expecting considerable interest from other hospitals adding: “We are aware of other approved masks that are generally of classic Type IIR design with a small window. Our mask offers a panoramic view of the wearers face, rather than just the lips. The feedback we have had from the hearing impaired who have used our mask shows that the design of the Panoramic Mio-Mask is favoured where lip reading, expressions and facial cues are all essential.”

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