A Quebec-based company is launching a first of its kind in Canada.
Entreprise Prémont in Louiseville officially kicked off production on Wednesday of its Humask Pro-Vision, a surgical mask with a transparent window designed to allow those with hearing loss to read lips.
A shortage of surgical masks was what prompted a group of entrepreneurs to launch the company just six months ago.
Luc Girard, is one of those entrepreneurs.
For Girard, developing a mask to help those with hearing loss was a priority.
“One of my daughters has a hearing problem,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“For me this was the first goal I have with the company when we start the production in April of our surgical mask.”
But what makes the mask unique is that it’s the only surgical mask of its kind in the country to be Health Canada-compliant.
“We’ve just received results from an independent lab that confirm it conforms to all Health Canada requirements,” Girard said. It is fulfills requirements for the CNESST, the provincial workers’ compensation board.
“It can be used in hospitals and schools, long-term care homes and daycares” Girard said.
The mask’s special design, according to Girard, makes it not only safe but comfortable.
Some of the features include extra space between mouth and the transparent window which allows for optimal comfort and breathability. The plastic film has anti-fog and anti-reflective properties and is thin enough to allow sound to pass through easily without sounding distorted or muffled but is still performant filtration-wise.
Furthermore, the window is welded to the material using ultrasound technology, ensuring the joins are airtight.
Girard said the perfect design was arrived at through trial and error and in close collaboration with textile industry specialists including TechniTextile Québec and Audition Québec, a non-profit whose mission is to promote the autonomy and integration of Quebecers with hearing loss.
According to Audition Québec president Jeanne Choquette, the new mask is a game-changer.
“Those with hearing loss rely on reading lips for communication,” she said, adding that most don’t know sign language, “but even those who do use sign language, they rely on facial expressions to understand.”
The pandemic and the use of windowless masks has resulted in communication breakdown for many people and not just those with hearing issues, Choquette said.
She noted that people with autism often need to use facial expressions and that children learning to speak, as well as immigrants trying to learn French, need to see a person’s lips.
This new mask will be beneficial to many people in society, she explained.
Entreprise Prémont says Humask-Pro Vision will be distributed in particular through schools, hospitals and government institutions, as well as specialized distributors. The mask will also be available to the public starting in early 2021 on the company’s website.
The company says it wants to price the mask at the lowest price possible and is aiming to have cost no more than a regular face mask.
“We want to have the possibility to help the most people in Canada,” he said.
In that vein, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the new mask will be donated to Audition Québec.