Cochlear implants on children need due diligence

Certain eligibility criteria must be satisfied before children undergo a cochlear implant as subsequent follow-ups would be costly, doctors say even as the State government has announced subsidy for the procedure which enables those born deaf to hear.

There is a dire need to satisfy certain candidacy criteria, a Bengaluru-based doctor told Deccan Herald, preferring to remain anonymous.

A key condition is to ensure the child has access to auditory verbal therapy (AVT), in the absence of which he/she will be unable to get used to the implant. Ignoring such conditions will mean the implant would do no good.

“Parents should have access to AVT therapy and be sufficiently educated to support the child’s language development skills,” said Radhika Poovayya, director, Samvaad Institute of Speech and Hearing. Maintenence would cost at least Rs 10,000 a year.

“Before ensuring a child is given implants—either free of cost or at subsidised prices—it is important to look at the long term or else no purpose would be served,” she added.

Lack of enough specialists and challenges in the procedure make cochlear implant an uncommon phenomenon, doctors stress.

With just about six experts in Karnataka who are qualified to perform the procedure, cochlear implant is yet to pick up in the State. Dr Madhuri Gore, professor, Dr S R Chandrasekhar Institute of Speech and Hearing, Bengaluru, said that expertise and dedicated facilities were needed to perform the implant.

“There are not many specialists who do the implant. Besides, similar to what is followed during brain surgeries, extreme care has to be taken. A special operation theater, completely sterilised, is another must for the implant,” she explained.

CM’s relief fund

Under the chief minister’s relief fund, patients could avail themselves of Rs 25,000, according to Dr Gore. But the surgery could cost anywhere between Rs five lakh and 10 lakh making it difficult for a common man to afford it.

The State government has been contemplating including the implant under other health schemes but nothing has materialised as yet. States like Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu offer the implant as part of government schemes, Dr Gore said.

The incidence of children being born with severe to profound hearing disability is two or three per thousand.

Those with bilateral severe to profound hearing loss, preferably less than five years of age with no other disability, are considered eligible for the implant.
DH News Service

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