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Progress, neural prosthesis has helped many children with hearing problems, says expert

Many children who were born deaf and received cochlear implants are now studying in IITs and IIMs, says Mohan Kameswaran

Many children who were born deaf and received cochlear implants are now studying in IITs and IIMs, says Mohan Kameswaran

Advances in biomedical technology and neural prosthetics have greatly aided recovery from hearing loss and have helped thousands of children – more than 5,000 in Tamil Nadu – make the transition from the world of silence to the world of sound, Mohan Kameswaran, general manager and chief surgeon, Madras ENT Research Foundation, said.

At the 18th Prof Arcot Gajaraj Memorial Oration on “Dealing with Deafness in Children: Trials, Trials and Triumphs” on Saturday, he emphasized that early detection and treatment of hearing loss in children was crucial as it affected their language acquisition. Early diagnosis and intervention can help a child with deafness live a normal life — with normal language acquisition, cognitive development, social skills and normal communication, he said.

Professor Kameswaran called cochlear implants a “life-changing technology” and mentioned how children who were born deaf and received cochlear implants were now studying in IITs and IIMs, in the US, one of whom had access to medical college and another who could speak six languages.

It was in 2004 that the former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi introduced cochlear implants in the then “Kalaignar Kapeetu Thittam” (now the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme). Today, more than 5,000 children in Tamil Nadu who were born with congenital deafness could hear through cochlear implants, he said.

In the rest of the world, one in 1,000 babies was born with congenital deafness, he said. “In India it’s double the numbers. In Tamil Nadu, that is six per 1,000 live births.” He attributed the higher incidence in Tamil Nadu to consanguineous marriages and later noted that in almost all marriages the main problem was cochlear.

He followed how diagnostic tools and interventions for hearing loss have evolved over the years.

Speaking of rubella and its effects on children, he said that maternal screening during early pregnancy was considered the standard of care and that it was important for girls in high schools to be vaccinated and mass immunization should take place.

Professor Kameswaran spoke about auditory brainstem implants for children born without cochlea.

Minister of Health Ma. Subramanian emphasized the need to raise public awareness about rubella.

A. Jaishree Gajaraj, president of the Arcot Gajaraj Educational and Training Program, said rubella was one of the leading causes of preventable congenital deafness. Every woman should be checked for rubella’s immune status before pregnancy, she said.

R. Rangasayee, former president of the Indian Speech and Audiology Association, said newborn screening was an important area. He said that to prevent hearing loss, warnings should be placed on all machines that produce a lot of noise. He called for the creation of quiet rooms in noisy entertainment venues such as pubs and hearing the elderly on screens.

Gowrishanker Paramasivam of Chennai Fetal Care Center spoke.

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