Ear to the ground
With a rise in the cases of hearing impairment among children, Monika Thakur reports that around 60 per cent of them can be prevented by early diagnosis, providing immunisation against various diseases and by regulating the use of medication
It was earth-shattering for Asha Pundir, a mother of two, when she found out that her younger son, Aditya Pundir was born with hearing impairment. They showed him to an ENT specialist who told her that four out 1,000 children are born deaf in India.
Hearing loss or hearing impairment is a partial or total inability for one to hear that may occur in one or both the ears. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) the incidence of hearing impairment is increasing in children at a very fast rate but around 60 per cent of these can be prevented by early diagnoses, by providing immunisation against various diseases and by use of certain medications.
In India, it is estimated that four lakh children at present, under the age of four are prone to hearing loss and approximately one lakh children born every year with a severe risk of hearing loss. Out of these only 2,000 children are fortunate enough to get their hearing loss treated. If right measures are not taken by 2050, over 900 million children will have severe hearing loss.
After consulting with the doctors, Aditya got Cochlear’s advance hearing implant installed in his ears and since then he is able to hear clearly and lead a normal life. “Cochlear’s implantation has given my children the freedom to dream what they want to be when they grow,” Pundir says.
Aditya shares that he loves playing guitar and listening to Ed Sheeran’s songs, while another recipient Aditya Srivastava, a cinemophile, says how he used to watch silent movies earlier but now, after getting the implant done has no restrictions while enjoying his favourite movies.
Doctors share that most of the children who couldn’t listen when they were born are now been able to hear with the advance hearing technology and have hobbies like singing, watching movies and listening to songs.
According to the 2011 India census data, hearing disability was marked as the second most common cause of disability after locomotory disability. The need of the hour is to have early screening and intervention for children with profound hearing loss. To raise awareness about Universal New-born Hearing Screening (UNHS) and urge the Government to mandate this screening, Cochlear’s Global Hearing Ambassador, cricketer Brett Lee was recently at the UNHS at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH). Leading surgeons and experts Dr Shalabh Sharma, ENT consultant Surgeon, SGRH) and Asha Agarwal, Cochlear implant consultant also joined him to talk about hearing related issues.
Lee said: “Now that we have the implanting devices, some amazing surgeons and clinicians who are doing great job, there is a need for awareness, we need people on the streets to understand that when a child is born, he has to get the screening test done which is the most important thing because this can help in early detection of the issue.”
Causes of childhood hearing loss is 40 per cent genetic causes; 31 per cent infections like measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis; 17 per cent occur due to complications at the time of birth, prematurity, low birth weight and neonatal jaundice; 4 per cent expectant mothers and newborns unknowingly using medicines that are harmful to hearing.
Many countries, especially the developed ones, have UNHS mandatory. Even in India, a lot of hospitals have started doing this test, Cochlear itself has been doing this test for the past 12 years, and Cochlear’s main aim is to make the UNHS test universal in India, as well.
Kerala was the first State in the country to provide hearing screening for children in the 66 Government maternity centres. The Kerala Social Security Mission developed a software to keep a record of real-time data of the new-born screened and share with other institutions such as District Early Intervention Centers (DEICs) and medical colleges to help regular follow ups and to be able to provide advanced services.
Gone are the days when children born with hearing impairment were considered to be the victim of their destiny. Cochlear has come up with innovative technology to not only screen and detect hearing impairment at an early stage but also provide implantable hearing solutions that serve a lifetime of hearing outcomes.
“With current technological advancements, it hardly takes five minutes to get UNHS test done. The sooner a child is screened for hearing impairment, the sooner viable treatment becomes possible, if required to be done. Parents may not be able to identify hearing loss in their child either when the child is born or is very young, which is why hearing screening tests become crucial. It enables early intervention so that the child doesn’t face any difficulty when it comes to learning and development,” Agarwal tells you.
Cochlear started doing implants in 2011 and has been doing implantations in about 2,000 children every year. The implants were done on children as young as nine months of age and as old as 84 years.
Keeping in mind India’s love for cricket, Cochlear is spearheading awareness about the issue by using a campaign ‘Sounds of Cricket’ the campaign focuses on sounds of the little things in cricket that normal people would take for granted.
“I want to use this platform to draw attention to the growing incidence of profound hearing loss, because I strongly believe that everybody deserves to hear the sounds of life. I am very proud to raise awareness about the critical issue that impacts millions of lives. We should attempt to make UNHS mandatory nationwide,” Lee said.
Cochlear has covered cities like Banglore, Pune, Kochin, Chandigarh, Trivandrum, Guwahati and Amritsar over the last three years and is leaving no stone unturned in an effort to make India a part of the list of countries that have UNHS mandatory for newborns.
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