Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Transitioning From Silence to Sound...

"Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people" 

~ Helen Keller 

Truer words have never been expressed in relation to the vital sense of hearing that we have been endowed with. Our sense of hearing is critical to our perception of communication with the world around us. Such is its indispensability that if impaired, it can affect an individual's functional, social and emotional, as well as economic standing as perceived by the individual themselves, as well as by the society. 

Hearing loss is defined as being partially or completely unable to hear (perceive sound) in one or both ears, the possible causes of which may include the following: 

  • Infections 
  • Birth Defects 
  • Aging 
  • Head or Ear Injuries 
  • Ototoxic Reactions to Drugs 
  • Exposure to Excessive Noise 


What if you could only imagine the sounds of life? 

That's the reality for 360 million people around the globe with disabling hearing loss. 

328 million adults and 32 million children have come face to face with this harsh reality of their lives. 

  • In addition to these horrifying numbers, 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12 - 35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings coupled with unsafe listening practices  
  • Interventions to prevent, identify and address hearing loss are cost-effective and can bring great benefit to individuals 
  • 50% of hearing loss is preventable through public actions such as immunization, healthy ear and hearing care habits, and effective treatment for both acute and chronic ear conditions 
  • People with hearing loss benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support 

Especially for the 32 million children battling this impairment causing them to distance themselves from the world around them, it is imperative that we sensitize ourselves to their care including timely detection and addressing the impairment's root cause and treatment failing which the following consequences may negatively affect the child's personality. 

  • Delayed language development 
  • Academic underachievement 
  • Social isolation 
  • Higher risk of injuries 
  • Degraded standard of living 

In order to take a constructive step towards addressing the criticality of this issue, the following strategies need to be enforced gradually but on a fast-track basis. 

  • Strengthen maternal and child healthcare programmes, including immunization and organizations of people with hearing loss 
  • Train healthcare professionals in hearing care 
  • Regulate and monitor use of ototoxic medicines and environmental noise 
  • Implement infant and school-based hearing screening 
  • Making accessible hearing devices and communication therapies  
  • Raise awareness to promote hearing care and reduce stigma 

It was a privilege to be acquainted with the cause of working for individuals putting up with hearing impairment in the form of a crusader's campaign #SoundsOfCricket launched by the global market-leader in implantable hearing solutions, Cochlear, in collaboration with their Global Hearing Ambassador and charismatic Australian Cricketer Brett Lee

With their motto of Hear Now, And Always, Cochlear has been leading the way with their three decades of research in this field of healing. It was indeed an insightful session with experts Dr. Minakshi Wadhera who has been practising speech therapy for quite a while now and made known to us the ABCs of hearing impairment and why it is imperative for us as parents to intervene early enough to sense if our children are faring well in listening to and understanding the environment around them in their growing years, and Dr. Someshwar Singh who led us to explore the neuro-plasticity of the brain that goes by the motto 'Use It or Lose It' in its formative years.

The various treatment options available to aid individuals suffering from hearing impairment were put forward, the functioning of the human ear and a cochlear implant's minute details were discussed during the course of the session.

The various remedies available to counter hearing impairment include: 

  • Hearing Aids, that are best for mild to severe loss and consist of an externally worn hearing aid that captures sound through the microphone and amplifies it into the hearing aid channel  
  • Cochlear Implant Systems, that are best suited for moderate to profound loss, and essentially bypass the damaged cochlea and create electronic signals which the brain interprets as sound  
  • Bone Conduction Implant Systems, that are best for children born with impaired middle or outer ear or no ear canal, sending vibrations through the bone bypassing the damaged outer and middle ear 

The key takeaways from the informative session with both the medical experts could be stated concisely as follows. 

  • Every recipient of a Cochlear implant receives different benefits, based on the duration of time that they’ve been through hearing impairment before the implant, the extent of hearing impairment and the overall well-being of their inner ear, and overall medical history. Their response to the therapy they receive after the implant also plays a vital role 

  • Parents must be participative enough after the implant is done since this period is crucial for the child to get accustomed to hearing, especially since they’re unfamiliar with the sounds they perceive. For us as adults who have been hearing well since birth, it is impossible to imagine how children with hearing impairment would distinguish with hearing and not being able to hear anything at the first instance 

  • A Cochlear Implant System stimulates the cochlea's hair cells, bypassing the damaged area of the ear canal 

  • Can children who have cochlear implants swim? Of course. They just have to wear a cover on the implant to protect the processor. In fact, there’s nothing that someone with the implant cannot do. In addition, the AQUA+ for KansoTM also testifies the fact that it would be waterproof thus allowing a recipient to enjoy themselves fully sans any fear of damaging their equipment 

  • Surgery for grafting the implant happens under general anesthesia and is an hour-long procedure. As is customary, the recipient is kept under observation for a couple of days before being discharged. Then, the implant is switched on only after a month or so after the recipient gets used to having it. This is followed by therapy to accustom the recipient to sound and speech 

The newest off-the-ear cochlear implant from Cochlear is KansoTM, which is discreet and compact, and has been designed in a range of colors to suit the style of a recipient and be camouflaged entirely in the hair on the head. It is equipped with SmartSound iQ with SCAN, dual microphones and sports a robust design.

At the event in Delhi, KansoTM was unveiled by Brett Lee in presence of Dr. Minakshi, Dr. Singh and a recipient of a Cochlear implant, Smriti, who shared with us her experience and interacted with us as any other person would. She came across as a cheerful, confident lady who's enthusiastic about her day-to-day activities in college.

As for Brett, he shared how he was devastated when a head injury sustained in an accident left his then five-year-old son Preston with hearing impairment in the right ear. 

Much to Brett's relief, Preston's hearing returned naturally over a year later. The incident left a deep impression on Brett with an urge to obtain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by those suffering from hearing loss as well as their families. 

"It was indeed a horrible phase. This personal tragedy shook me and  I decided to do a lot of reading and research on children growing up with hearing loss and how they adapt to society", said Brett, who is now closely associated with and feels strongly for those unable to perceive #SoundsOfCricket.

"Every kid wants to hear, every kid deserves to hear, and every kid should hear. I want to make sure, that everyone has the opportunity to experience what I hear, whether that's the sounds of everyday life, the sounds of loved ones, or the sounds of cricket.", says Binga, who set the field on fire with his pace and bowling skills. 

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