If wearing a face mask makes you feel misunderstood, you're not alone. From your voice being muffled to your breath trapping heat, a mask makes it difficult and uncomfortable for many to communicate.
That’s the message of Audra Renyi, a Montreal innovator who is out to change that with the launch of Canamasq, a breakthrough non-medical protective mask that solves common issues related to traditional face coverings. Foremost, Canamasq helps users be more easily understood, thanks to its transparent mouth feature, heat-reducing technology and anti-fog coating, she said, explaining that non-medical masks are those generally used by the public and do not require Health Canada certification.
“Even countries. When the pandemic hit, the company pivoted its business to locally develop and produce Canamasq. before the COVID-19 outbreak, people who wear face masks in professional settings have all said communication is difficult – with those hard of hearing, with children and with each other,” explained Renyi, Founder and CEO of earAccess Inc., a Montreal-based for-profit social enterprise that provides heavily discounted hearing aids to those in underserved communities and developing countries.
“Canamasq solves the communication problem by making the mask wearer’s expressions visible through a polyethylene window so that older people and those hard of hearing can lip read, and children can be reassured by a smile,” said Renyi, who is also Executive Director of World Wide Hearing Foundation International. “There’s no more need to shout, repeat yourself or lift your mask to make yourself understood.”
Renyi – a former Wall Street investment banker who has been named one of the most creative people by Fast Company and a Heroine of Health at the WHO World Health Assembly, and was awarded the Governor General of Canada's Innovation Award and 2020 CANIE Prize for Woman Entrepreneur of Quebec by Startup Canada – knows firsthand how frustrating masks can be, even beyond her professional experience working as a hearing specialist.
Not only did she grow up with a father who has hearing loss and relies on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate – as do 50 per cent of people over the age of 65 – but her 14-month-old daughter is afraid of opaque masks.
“When I dropped my daughter off at daycare for the first time a few weeks ago, she cried when she saw the daycare educator, who was wearing an opaque mask,” Renyi explained, adding that the other children reacted similarly. “When I gave the educator a Canamasq to wear, my daughter and the other kids were more receptive because they could see the educator’s warm, welcoming smile beneath the mask.”
Putting a face to your mask
In addition to the see-through feature that “puts a face” to the person wearing it, Canamasq is unique in that it uses proprietary technology that combines some of the protective and filtration characteristics of the two or three layers of regular masks into a single layer fabric, enabling easier breathing and less heat to accumulate, while still providing the same – if not better – protection against airborne droplets, she said. What’s more, the innovative design closes the mask without a heavy nose wire, venting heat upward to further improve breathability and comfort.
To add to the comfort factor, Canamasq also solves a frequent face mask issue of ear loops causing pressure behind the ears when worn for extended periods of time. With completely adjustable loops, Canamasq removes ear pain by enabling users to adjust the length of the loops to their desired position.
Washable by hand with soap and warm water, Canamasq can be purchased at canamasq.com