Meet Rhys Yarbrough, a 20-year-old student who works at Starbucks and lives in Missouri.
Yarbrough was born with one ear due to a craniofacial condition called Goldenhar syndrome. She told BuzzFeed News the right side of her face didn’t form correctly and that she has had about seven corrective surgeries, including one that lasted 11 hours.
“I am completely deaf on my right side and use a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) to help me hear,” said Yarbrough.
Recently, Yarbrough went viral on TikTok recently after someone asked her how she has adapted to wearing a mask. She said wearing a mask is never really that difficult for her, and having a prosthetic ear helps her mask sit correctly.
“It can be frustrating because I will be making dinner,” she said, “and forget something and have to run to the store, but halfway through the drive I realize I don’t have my prosthesis on.”
Yarbrough said it has been irritating hearing people use a fake medical excuse to get out of wearing a mask. She believes it’s incredibly important to wear one.
Yarbrough said she was inspired to post TikTok’s after seeing a video of a girl that looks like her. “I was just in shock,” she said. “I have never seen anyone that looked like me before. “
She said she showed her boyfriend @Lentuk’s TikTok account, and he encouraged her to put herself out there. “I basically copied @lentuk‘s video,” she said. “It got a little bit of attention, and that’s when I saw the PopSocket and command strip comments.”
People asked Yarbrough to try putting a Command hook and a PopSocket in the place of where her prosthesis ear usually is.
She did it. She said she thought the comments had been funny, and when she went to Walmart the next day, she thought about the comments and decided to just try it.
“I’ve never used anything but my prosthesis as an ear,” she said, “and I was curious on how it would actually work. “
She said neither of them hurt, and they felt similar to her prosthesis but not as sticky. “The PopSocket was definitely more sturdy,” she said, “and felt more comfortable to wear.”
“They peeled off easy, and it didn’t leave a mark,” she added.
She said she couldn’t stop laughing at herself, and her boyfriend, Zack, thought that the video would go viral. At the time of writing, the PopSocket video has 24.6 million views and one of her putting on her prosthesis has 19.1 million views.
“I tend to forget that my life is different from most people,” said Yarbrough, “and I would have never guessed that putting a freaking PopSocket on my face would get this much attention.”
Yarbrough said she has been getting a lot of support from people with similar stories. “I’ve had so many people reach out to me from all over the world sharing their stories about having one ear,” she said, “or knowing someone with one ear and that I was an inspiration.
“I actually get kind of emotional because I now have this whole new network of people who are just like me.”