While I was listening to the radio this morning, they played my little one’s favourite song. As the song started, he came running in from the next room and for the next 4 minutes danced like there was no tomorrow. What an amazing sight! His enthusiasm uplifted my spirits and got me dancing as well. There is a saying by Gilbert Parker – “For when a child is born, the mother also is born again“. I couldn’t agree more. I love seeing my children enjoy themselves. Their happiness is such a stimulus for me to enjoy my life.
That’s why when I was invited for the Cochlear™ Celebration organized by Cochlear™ India, I couldn’t help but say “yes” in the first go. While I was there I learned that 4 in every 1000 children born in India have severe to profound hearing loss. Such children in a layman’s language are called “deaf & mute” but nothing can be further from the truth. Speech is dependent completely on hearing.
Your mother tongue and accent is completely based on where you are raised. A Chinese baby born in the Indian state of Kerala will develop the same sociolinguistic characteristics that any baby born in Kerala would in the same environment. Hearing is so ingrained in speech, that any problem with the sense of hearing will alter speech perception, delaying or hampering its development. This is the reason the word “dumb” is a misnomer.
While hearing loss is a serious problem that does not mean that hearing and speech impaired children have no scope. Intelligence is not a function of speech. And because they cannot respond to something they have never perceived, the normal social world finds it difficult to accept such children. Lets’s face it, with technology growing at the pace it is at present, the single most rapidly developing area in human life is communication. We hear more, we talk more and thus share more than any of the previous generations of humans have ever done.
The human cochlea has the sensory organ for hearing & its amazing how this small body organ has such a unique and committed role of converting sound waves into electrical neural impulses which stimulate the brain. The cochlea structure is so uniquely coded that it recognizes different sound frequencies, harmonies and transmits the same with ultimate precision to our brain. This is the reason I can tell the difference between Sunidhi Chauhan and my next-door-neighbour’s bathroom singing 😉
It was interesting to know that technology has been able to fix the broken bridge of hearing with the use of Cochlear™ Implants. Unlike hearing aids which amplify sounds, cochlear implants mimic the function of the human ear. This means that the implant actually converts the sound waves into active neural impulses which stimulate the brain just like a normal ear does.
So, a hearing impaired child implanted at the right time (12 – 24 months of age) would be exposed to the same sound environment a normal child is exposed to, giving the same scope for speech development that a normal child has. Thus, it is truly remarkable to learn that although we might not be able to do much about the 4 in 1000 children who are born with severe to profound hearing loss, we don’t have to leave it that way. Some thing can be done to help make these kids fully functioning contributors to society, and that something is Cochlear implants.
Speech development can be normal if a hearing impaired child is implanted when this development is in the early stages, which on an average is below 4 years of age. Thus if enough awareness is created, allowing for early intervention and implanting at an early age, we can avoid the challenges of dealing with not only hearing impaired but also late or slow development. Thus brightening the lives of such affected families.
There is so much social stigma associated with hearing impairment that it is appalling. Nobody thinks twice about wearing spectacles to see clearly. But if hearing is an issue, many people in India would rather ignore it, than address the problem and finding a solution. A few people do find out about cochlear implants in time but the decision to get their child implanted comes after a long wait. At times it’s so late that, by then even cochlear implants are a long shot. This can change if greater awareness and acceptance of this sensory dysfunction is created allowing for earlier redressal of this issue.
At the Cochlear™ Celebration event, I witnessed a panel (Dr Milind V Kirtane , Nishita Mohandas , Dr Soonu Udani , Ms Geeti Char , Dr. Samir Dalwai , Dr. Sangeeta Varty, Shefali Shah – Founder-Director of Sound Steps ) of experts, doctors and audiologists discussing the importance of early implantation and urging parents to get their children checked and tested at an early age rather than delaying until they grow older. They stressed repeatedly on early diagnosis and treatment, and the videos of their young patients stood testimony to that. The fact that children with hearing impairment find it difficult to pay attention in class, may in fact be responsible for their underachieving scholastic abilities was enlightening. At the event there were several kids who shared their stories of how their Cochlear™ Implants changed their lives. It was wonderful to see these children with the implant enjoy normal noisy lives. From hearing loss to performing a Bharatanatyam recital and some children displaying their cricket skills, these were unique inspirational stories which were shared on stage at the event.
Here are a couple of links to lives changed by Cochlear™ implants:
To learn more about Cochlear™ implants in India click here
It was a great event with a heartwarming message. I came home resolved to keep my ears open for children with hearing loss because I now am aware of an intervention that can change their lives completely. Kudos Cochlear™ India!
As they say the joy of giving is bigger than the joy of receiving, to everyone reading this, I urge you to make an attempt to understanding hearing impaired people in your social circle. Do talk to them and take them to an ENT specialist to help them find a solution to their problem before its too late.
Let’s go from silence to sound and change lives.
Help spread the word, so every child enjoys sound like it’s meant to be!
Me with my friends at the event!
Videos shown during the event
This was the message I held on to that I learnt at the event………