Mask mandates have benefited public health by limiting the spread of COVID-19 but have presented significant challenges for the hard-of-hearing and deaf community.  

Conventional face coverings can restrict both verbal and non-verbal language by muffling inflections and obscuring lip-reading and facial expressions. These nuances can often reveal the speaker’s subtext and emotional intention, which are vital for full comprehension.

Fair-trade fashion brand Rafi Nova announced the launch of the Smile Mask. Designed with Olivia Gampel, a speech-language pathology clinical fellow, the mask has a wide transparent panel and ear-loop extenders that can attach comfortably to accommodate hearing aids or cochlear implants. An anti-fog spray is also included, to prevent the clear panel from fogging up.

Committed to innovation and community engagement, Rafi Nova is giving away 500 Smile Mask prototypes to the hard-of-hearing and the deaf community and asking recipients for video feedback answering two questions: “What do you love about the mask?” and “How can we improve it?” 

“Fourteen percent of Americans suffer from hearing loss,” said Rafi Nova Co-Founder Marissa Goldstein. “That’s a huge community relying on visual cues to understand, engage, and communicate. We designed our mask to serve their visual needs. We’re confident their insights will make the Smile Mask the mask for everyone.”

Free mask candidates must be individuals for whom a traditional face mask restricts communication with colleagues and/or loved ones. Feedback will inform the final production. To be considered for a free Smile Mask prototype register at:

Source: Rafi Nova

Images: Rafi Nova