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May 19, 2003

It's music to their ears

From: Mumbai Newsline, India - May 19, 2003

Renuka Suryanarayan
Mumbai, May 19: There seems to be nothing clinical about the 1500-square feet Corinthian building office of the new Naad centre. Opened in April, at Colaba, the five people manning it are powered by one passion — tackling deafness.

So when parents with children suffering from hearing loss come in Monday to Friday, the children's self-esteem gets a searing boost.

"The new centre with its state-of-the-art equipment is used by 26 families who bring their toddlers here for services, ranging from audiology, education to counselling," says Malu Patel, therapist at Naad, adding, "We want to emphasise that the child is just as any normal child with all the future prospects."

Though deaf children are by law supposed to be included in normal schools, some schools refuse to do so. This is where Naad steps in. The counsellor goes to meet the principal, along with the parents, and explains that the child can hear well enough with the help of sophisticated hearing aids that they are using and have been trained to use at Naad.

"Some schools, like Father Agnel's (Bandra, Vashi) and St Mary's (Byculla), have been supportive. The next step is for us counsellors to meet the teachers and explain the nature of the child's hearing problem and suggest the best means to tackle it — like making them sit in the front row," explains a Naad spokesperson.

Naad's director, Shefali Shah, who talks of 'I Hear Foundation' (a Fort-based educational charitable trust with outreach programmes for parents of hearing impaired children, of which Naad is an offshoot) as the driving force behind the centre, says it is different from the others. "All the needs of the parents of a deaf child are available here at one location — audiology, MAPping, education, counselling and healthcare."

With advanced equipment (including digital and computerised hearing aids) for the hearing-impaired available in the market, they still cannot work on their own. "It's not that you just buy an aid and the child will be able to hear. Only an audiologist knows what suits a child best. Besides, even when a hearing aid is fitted, what the child hears is just noise. At the centre, we teach toddlers and slightly older children to decipher the sounds and learn the language," says Patel of the therapists who have been trained abroad to teach children how to listen, to develop language and clear their speech.

For children who have had cochlear implants (a surgically implanted digital device), the centre has MAPping facilities to adjust the setting of the computerised device.

Naad promotes competent, confident parents of the hearing-afflicted. "And if you don't have money, still come," says Patel. The services are at staggered rates — from free to Rs 3,000 per month.

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