From silence to sound

From silence to sound

Cochlear implants for children with hearing loss

From silence to sound

"I shared my concern with my husband but he reassured me saying that nothing was wrong,” recalled Saroja Raju, Komal’s mother.  Some time later, when Komal was a year and half, to her parents’ shock and anguish, she was diagnosed with hearing impairment.

Doctors recommended hearing aid for the child, but there was no significant improvement in Komal’s hearing. So after three months, her parents decided on a cochlear implant for the girl.

Cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.  The cochlear implant is often referred to as a bionic ear. Now, she can name the colours and count till 10, said a relieved Saroja, who now feels that Komal is as normal as her elder daughter.

Almost 1.1 lakh babies in Karnataka have hearing impairment. In fact, 23 lakh deaf babies are born in India every year. However, this can be prevented if babies are screened and diagnosed before six months of age. To encourage early detection, Dr Shanker Medikeri, Medikeri's Super Specialty ENT Center, announced the launch of Early Intervention Clinic on March 18. And, the clinic can diagnose deafness within four hours of birth.

Children have a small window of opportunity to pick up speech and language. If they are not detected early, they will not develop speech.  The main cause of hearing impairment in children with congenital problem is degeneration of hair cells in the ear. If any residual of hair cells are left, it is stimulated through hearing aid.

In cases, where the hair cells are completely degenerated, the nerve ends are stimulated through cochlear implant. However, if the nerve ends start degenerating, nothing can be done. The key is early screening.