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January 24, 2006

Music to the ears of hearing impaired

From: Hindu - Chennai,India - Jan 24, 2006

Staff Reporter

A city hospital offers cochlear implant surgery, post-operative care under one roof

CHENNAI: Three-year-old Karthik Kalyani was admitted to the Villivakkam branch of Balavidyalaya, a school for hearing impaired children after her father, T. Karthikeyan, found no improvement even after she was provided with a hearing aid.

However, Mr. Karthikeyan's despair turned into joy on Friday when the ENT surgeon walked out of the operation theatre. He knew in a few months his daughter would call out to him. "We took her to a movie when she was one-year-old. The loud noise in the theatre did not disturb her. That is when I knew she was deaf. But the family did not accept it," recalls Mr. Karthikeyan. He visited audiologists and tests were done. By the time doctors prescribed hearing aid for her, he had spent thousands of rupees and was in debt.

A customer of the nationalised bank he works for suggested that the girl be taken to Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Hospital for audiology tests. "Before coming here [SRMC] I had visited more than 10 hospitals. I chose SRMC for its post-operative facilities."

Though Mr. Karthikeyan has a loan of over Rs. 6 lakh, he is excited that his daughter will go to the mainstream school.

Kalyani's problem can be rectified only by an implant in the cochlea or the inner ear. The implant is imported but the cost is very high even at the special price offered by Australian manufacturers for India, says A. Ravikumar, head of ENT department at SRMC, who did the surgery.

SRMC is the fifth hospital and the first medical college in Tamil Nadu to offer cochlear implant surgery, he says. The hospital started the programme last year as it had the expertise and could offer post-operative care under one roof. "All pre-operative evaluation charges and surgical costs, and post-operative costs for three months amount to Rs. 60,000," he says. At present, cochlear implants are made in Australia, Austria, the United States and France. The oldest and most used implant is from Australia, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the USA in 1985.

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