Early detection, a cure for hearing loss

As a seven-month-old infant, Rajneesh Kumar’s son Kushagra, did not seem to wake up, cry or show any signs of getting disturbed when their pet dog barked ferociously. That is when, suspecting something to be wrong, they decided to take him to an ENT specialist.

The doctor carried out a neurological test ‘Bera (Brainstem evoked response audiometry) screening’ which revealed that Kushagra was born with severe hearing impairment. The parents travelled across the country to seek advice and help for Kushagra’s well-being and met leading professionals in the field of speech and hearing.

He was first fitted with powerful hearing aids in both ears and was soon enrolled in speech and language therapy sessions. However, that was not enough as the parents wanted him to be just like other children in an environment of intense communication requirement. Finally, their search for better interventions for their child, led them to discover cochlear implants when Kushagra was seven-years-old.

Though the parents had several doubts initially, “early intervention and surgery” was the need of the hour. “After meeting so many professionals and getting to know about hearing loss, we realised it was important to seek early medical intervention and go for the surgery before it was too late,” Rajneesh tells Metrolife. 

 Recently, Kushagra underwent his second cochlear implant under the supervision of Dr Ameet Kishore, senior consultant surgeon, ENT at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Sarita Vihar.
He avers, “Hearing loss is one of the most common anomaly. In the past, parents, family members, pediatricians and even ENT surgeons did not suspect a hearing loss in children until after most speech and language milestones had been missed. This lead to irreversible delays in the speech and language development of a hearing-impaired child. Today we have the technology to screen and identify infants with hearing loss early.”

Describing cochlear implant as an electronic device that does the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain, Neevita Narayan, senior audiologist and founder, SpHear Speech and Heraing Clinic says, “It can be understood as an assistive and better technology for cases of profound hearing loss. This is a role that hearing aids, no matter howsoever powerful, cannot play. They are capable of just amplifying sounds. When supported by good quality speech and hearing therapy, cochlear implants can help deaf children’s hearing to normal extent and improve their speech as well.”

Yet, the job doesn’t end with implants, rather it begins with it. “A sustained therapy to train the patient in hearing through the implant device and speaking is followed. It is a team process, involving the cochlear implant surgeon, the audiologist, speech and language therapists as well as parents whose perseverance is the key to the success of the entire process,” explains Dr Kishore referring to Kushagra who has been implanted with the advanced implant – N6 which has done “wonders” to the boy.

As Kushagra, now 18, made it to Delhi University’s Hindu College (English Hons) after securing 95 per cent marks in senior secondary examination, it was the “proudest day” for his parents. “A child born with bilateral hearing impairment is today as good as normal with quality technological help and rehabilitation support,” says Delhi-based Rajneesh.

With the WHO observing World Hearing Day on March 3 with this year’s theme — ‘Childhood hearing loss: act now’, experts mention hearing loss in children can be prevented through public health measures and they benefit greatly from “early identification and suitable, timely
interventions”.

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