Tiruchi district lacks comprehensive early detection centre

A centre to diagnose hearing loss as early as the first day of birth has been established at the district differently abled welfare office, located on the district court premises. The early diagnostic centre, to be opened to public shortly, will focus on identifying possible hearing disability present at or acquired after birth.

If congenital hearing defects are neglected, they can lead to a host of issues such as impaired hearing, speech, language acquisition, developmental growth, and difficulties in academic progress, say various studies, including those by the World Health Organization. The centre is designed to assess the range of hearing disability in children, particularly those referred to by government hospitals in the district, R. Shyamala, differently abled welfare officer, told The Hindu.

At present, there are few facilities available in the government sector to test newborns for hearing disability. The early diagnostic centre is equipped with a BERA (brainstem evoked response audiometry) equipment estimated at Rs. 8 lakh, which measures responses in brain waves that are stimulated by sounds.

This tool is efficient in detecting hearing defect in newborns and infants who cannot be assessed by conventional audiometry tests that require an active response from the candidate taking the test, according to Sellam, audiologist at the centre.

The otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test, which monitors the vibration of hair cells in the ears, is among the facilities.

The centre houses a soundproof room for audiometric testing.

There is a provision to programme behind-the-ear hearing aids, based on hearing loss of the individual. These devices can be set according to hearing loss of individual.

Subsequent to diagnosis, speech therapy will be provided in the centre and parents will be counselled on early intervention to minimise disability. At present, a single audiologist has been appointed.

The centre has been set up in the space hitherto occupied by an audio library for visually challenged.