IM this article to a friend!

March 20, 2005

Cochlear implants - bringing a new ray of hope

From: New Kerala - Ernakulam,Kerala,India - Mar 20, 2005

[Health News] New Delhi, March 20 : Till three years ago, Sidharth Mehra, 10, was almost deaf. But thanks to a revolutionary surgery, he can now attend telephone calls, learn music and attend language lessons just like ordinary boys his age.

Born with sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve deafness, Sidharth was put on hearing aid after his second birthday. Even then he mostly relied on lip reading to converse till a cochlear implant performed on him opened his ears to a whole new world of noise.

Today, he is one of the 520 people who have benefited since the surgery entered India three years ago, according to Sunil Kathuria, head of ENT department at Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre here.

"Yet the awareness of cochlear implant is relatively poor in India, with hardly a dozen medical centres in the country offering this surgery," Kathuria told IANS.

Nerve deafness occurs when the tiny hair cells lining the cochlea in the inner ear have been damaged. These damaged hair cells are unable to send electrical impulses to the hearing nerve and hence the brain does not receive complete sound information.

Kathuria, who is trying to spearhead awareness on cochlear implants, said that seven out of 10 people - mostly children - with impaired hearing worldwide have benefited from them.

A major deterrent for the lack of popularity in India could be the cost of the implant which varies from Rs.512,000 to Rs.800,000 depending on the contour of the device.

However, this is a one-time investment that improves the quality of life forever, Kathuria argues.

"When compared to the maintenance cost of a hearing aid, whose digital version costs Rs.100,000, this is definitely much better. If the preoperative investigations are done properly, the success of the implant is cent percent," he assured.

The recurring annual cost is just about a couple of thousands for the battery of the speech processor, microphone, processor mapping etc.

A testimony to the difference an operation can make to one's life is Anjali, Sidharth's mother, who calls the operation a boon.

"Earlier, he (Sidharth) was totally depending on lip reading for understanding. But now since getting a cochlear implant in June 2002, his comprehension is much better," said his mother Anjali, who no longer fears for Sidharth's safety when he is out playing or cycling.

After the implant, she has seen Sidharth responding to all sorts of sounds - he could hear birds chirping and attended telephone calls like he had never had a handicap ever, she claims.

"Unfortunately not many paediatricians or ENT specialists are aware of the benefits of cochlear implant. The longer you delay, the poorer the results," said Kathuria, whose youngest patient was 14-month-old Aishwarya, who is now able to hear and talk normally.

In older children, speech pattern does not improve so quickly. Age plays a major factor in the success of an implant where the cut-off age is 17 years.

Only in cases where the hearing has been lost at a later age like in the case of Mohammed Bhai, an Agra-based businessman, the implant has helped to bring back the sounds into his life.

-Indo-Asian News Service

© 2005