The first things Doctors and parents do when a child is born, is to look out for 10 toes, 10 fingers, the squealing cry, a healthy heart beat and the right baby weight. But sometimes the most crucial thing Doctors forget or don’t even consider checking is their hearing ability. Years go by and this disability goes undetected.
Imagine a life without sound. Imagine not hearing your own name.
We pay so much attention to our other sense organs that hearing is something we take for granted. Hearing disability is most prevalent in the world, but least invested in.
How important is hearing?
When teachers in Pre School or Kindergarten teach, they ask little children to pronounce the sound of the alphabets out loud. It’s called phonetics. But if you can’t hear the words, your brain can’t gather any information. How will a child know what does apple sound like when he/she can’t even hear the word apple?
Cochlear, an organization based out of Sydney, Australia has taken up the responsibility to spread the awareness of hearing disabilities worldwide. They have come up with solutions to fix this impediment.
The first Implant invented by Cochlear was nearly 40 years back. Since then they have treated more than 2, 60,000 patients with the help of their Implants, making them one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in this field.
They were kind enough to call few Bloggers to know more about the programme and their efforts to tackle this disability.
Cochlear has come up with a Gadget that can be implanted right underneath the skin, with the electrodes being connected to the nerves in the brain.
A second Gadget sends out sound wave signals to the brain.
With the two Gadgets working in tandem, someone with little or very less hearing ability can how hear clearly with this technology. It’s a life long solution
This journey doesn’t stop once a child begins to hear sounds clearly. They also believe in making hearing as easy as possible for the brain to develop.
We all have seen those huge hearing aids worn by our grandparents. You know the ones, where the battery needs to be changed every other day. Cochlear is not a hearing aid, it’s a hearing solution. The implant and the instrument are so sleek, you can’t even imagine. The Kanso™, which is their latest product, is the size of a pebble.
The Question is now how soon is too soon to prevent hearing disability
Before that what is more important is to know why this happens in the first place.
Dr. Shomeshwar Singh – Leading surgeon for Cochlear Implants, helped us understand why and how can hearing disability be detected and then be taken action upon.
He mentioned that there are various causes of hearing Loss
It could be cause of –
- Birth Defect
- Aging Process
- Head or Ear Injury
- Ototoxic reaction to drugs
- Exposure to Excessive Noise etc
With children, the cause is more difficult to pin point. It could be a genetic disorder, or some complication during pregnancy. The child could be born to hearing parents too. The reason for the disability can never be proven.
He also mentioned that 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss and that it can affect people of all age groups.
Five of every 1000 infants are born with or develop hearing loss in early childhood.
Nearly 1 out of every 3 people over 65 years is affected by hearing loss.
With exposure to loud music and head phones being constantly glued to the ears, young people worldwide are at a risk of hearing loss as well.
Imagine never listening to your favourite music playing in the radio. Dead silence 24/7. So much so, you can’t even hear someone call out to you.
Hearing loss has an emotional, social, functional and economic impact as well
When it comes to children, 60% of childhood hearing loss is preventable. Children need intervention and rehabilitation as soon as it is detected. The reason being that the child’s brain is still developing. The formative years build every skill they hone for the rest of their lives. Be it speech, motor control, mental and emotional stability. The brain activity is more during this time. So when one part of your senses is not functional, then the brain has to over work to compensate. In turn putting more pressure on the other senses. The Cochlear implants, ensures that the brain is not overworked.
Every child should get tested at birth. Once it is detected, they can use hearing aids and by the time they reach 10-12 months the Cochlear implant can be put it. But it doesn’t stop here.
Protect your child’s anatomy
The key mantra is “first, do no harm’. That’s why Cochlear has designed electrodes to be easily placed precisely where nerve stimulation is proven to be effective – in the hearing zone. This avoids unnecessary damage to deeper nerves.
Provide immediate confirmation of success
The smart implant system and unique intraoperative remote assistant lets the child surgeon know that the device is working and when the child will be able to hear, and that too even before they even complete the surgery. One doesn’t have to wait for weeks to know that everything is going to be okay.
This is a long-term solution, with only one or two surgeries required, depending upon whether you are getting it in one ear or two. It’s a 2 hour surgery and the patient can be discharged the very same day or the next day.
One of my favourite films, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is about this struggling musician whose dream was to be a great composer, but he couldn’t make it. When his son was born, Mr. Holland thought that now his child would full-fill his dreams. One day at a parade, the wife noticed that in the midst of all the sound and commotion, her baby slept silently through out. The scene is poignant as well as heart breaking, but so real.
Hearing loss is an invisible disability. But it does impact growth and development. These children can have problems adjusting with other children. They sometimes lack confidence and shy away from speaking. This disability holds them back from reaching their real potential.
But the journey doesn’t stop after getting the implant. Rehabilitation soon follows and this is a must. A child with hearing loss needs to adjust to speech and hearing all over again.
Dr. Meenakshi – Specialist in Speech and Hearing disability
She has 19 branches across North India conducting the rehabilitation program.
Once the child gets the implant, he/she need to get accustomed to it. Become one with it. Speech therapy and Sound therapy are components of this rehabilitation.
She mentions that after getting Cochlear implants, children don’t consider themselves disabled. They live normal lives and do more things than you and I can imagine. They play sports, go swimming and participate in debates – they can do everything!
Get your hearing tested. Get your child’s hearing tested. Though Cochlear has come up with a solution to hearing disability, it’s these steps taken at the right time to stop further damage that matters.
A while back there was this YouTube video circulating of a baby hearing her mom’s voice for the first time. The smile on the child’s face was priceless. That’s what hearing feels like.
Australian Cricketer Bret Lee is Cochlear’s Global Hearing Ambassador. He became involved with this initiative via the campaign #SoundsOfCricket, with his 5-year-old son was diagnosed with hearing loss in his right ear after a head injury.
Have a look at his message
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