UNCW Alumnus John Royle, Friends Provide Free Ear Guards to Health Care Workers, Law Enforcement

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

John Royle ’16 and a group of friends are helping health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them a little bit of comfort.

The group is making ear guards to alleviate the pain caused by wearing surgical masks for an extended period of time. Royle, an exercise science major, got the idea from a Boy Scout in Canada who saw images of health care workers whose faces were bruised from wearing protective surgical masks. The teenager decided to create the ear guards using a 3D printer.

The guards connect the straps from the masks, elevating them to the back of the head, so they don't rub the backs of the ears. They're also adjustable so they fit comfortably, said Royle, who lives in Massachusetts.

“Nurses, doctors and hospital staff are wearing masks for 10-12 hours a day causing irritation, blisters and open sores behind their ears. This, in turn, puts them at a much higher risk of infection,” said Royle, an industrial engineer at UPS. “We have the opportunity and the ability to help. I don't need recognition for doing this. What I want is a greater audience to increase our ability to help.”

Royle and five individuals use eight 3D printers to fill requests they receive via Facebook from all over the country. As of April 24, the group had filled 140 requests for a total of 3,982 ear guards. They began making the guards on April 7.

“The first week the Facebook post was shared, we started getting a lot of requests from health agencies,” he said. “Our response has been huge, and it is clear that there is a big need.” Now that the group has caught up on requests, they are eager to help other health care professionals and law enforcement.

“If people need help, reach out,” Royle said.

Instructions on how health care professionals or law enforcement can request free ear guards are available at

-- Venita Jenkins