When It Comes to Your Mask, a Lot of Things Matter
Last updated: January 2023
The mask is the one thing that everyone will tell you makes the biggest difference in how successful someone is using their positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy.
Your mask problems matter
New users assume that the mask they are given is “THE” mask that will work for them, even though this is frequently not the case. Many people are not aware that most insurance companies will cover a second mask within the first 30 days and therefore don’t speak up about problems.
Don’t just accept that you were given the best mask for you if you are having problems. Talk to your equipment provider or your sleep specialist and get help.
Your mask size matters
Having the right size mask can make a huge difference. You may think you need a medium but actually need a large or vice-a-versa.
Did you know that a large, full-face mask from one manufacturer may be a different size and fit differently than a large, full-face from another manufacturer? It’s true. You may need to consider a different manufacturer if your fit is not right and you absolutely need that style mask.
The choice you are given matters
Sadly, some durable medical equipment (DME) companies only carry one manufacturer's products. There are many companies, including companies online, that carry many different manufacturers’ products.
Sometimes it pays to do a bit of comparison shopping if your DME only carries one brand. (That said, you may find your insurance carrier requires you to use a specific DME provider. If that happens, try talking them into a special order. It never hurts to ask. Worst case, you may have to pay cash for a mask.)
Your mask age matters
Did you know that as your mask ages, it breaks down? The same goes for the headgear getting stretched out. This can lead to your mask, which once fit beautifully, starting to leak and no longer fitting well. Replacement parts are covered by insurance and should be occurring regularly.
Proper mask fitting matters
When you first get your mask, your provider will tell you all kinds of useful things about fitting your mask properly. Unfortunately, you are being given so much information that it is highly unlikely you will remember it all. You will have what is called “informational overload.” This can lead to some information being remembered incorrectly or forgotten entirely.
How a mask fits when you are sitting up is different from how it fits when lying down. Some masks require that your machine be on, off, or on and on your highest pressures to get the best fit that will get you through the entire night. So, what is a person supposed to do to remember it all?
I commonly suggest people Google their mask name and put in “fitting guide” behind it. The manufacturers have videos out that will go over with you how to properly fit that mask. This can be a boon as you may find answers to issues you didn’t even realize came from your mask fit. There is no need to worry about remembering everything; just check out the video.
Our differences matter
Everyone is different so try not to get locked into thinking what worked for someone else will automatically work for you. It may not. It happens that we sometimes get stuck thinking we need to find “The One” – the mask that we will totally love and wear every night without fail.
That is not the case for everyone. There is a subset of users who will find that they can only take a mask for a few days and then, though it worked well at first, it’s doesn’t now. These people need to switch it up and keep 2 or 3 masks on hand, switching every few days.
For some, the perfect size and shaped mask just don’t exist (yet), and switching it up regularly solves the problem.
Let’s also not forget that sometimes we have found that one mask we totally love only to have the manufacturer stop making it. I have had that happen to me more than once. New masks are always coming out on the market. I have found masks that I ended up loving just as much, or even more, than the discontinued one.
If you are struggling, don’t give up. You’re not alone, and finding the best mask for you is a common struggle for PAP users. Ask questions and get help. It’s worth it. Communicating your PAP issues and asking questions will go a long way to success with your therapy.
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