Five-year-old Harivarshan can recite the Kanda Shashti Kavacham without missing a syllable. He is now learning English. Hari might not have had this opportunity, but for the investment his parents made in a cochlear implant.
Hari, who was given the implant at the age of two-and-a-half, is among the 101 children who have received the implant under the Chief Minister’s comprehensive health insurance scheme over the past two years, at KKR ENT Hospital.
A cochlear implant, or a bionic ear, is a surgically-implanted electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.
On Wednesday, ENT surgeons K.K. Ramalingam and his son Ravi, held a programme at the hospital to laud the efforts of the parents and auditory rehabilitation specialists, for their dedication in ensuring that the children join mainstream schools.
Hari’s parents are from Kerala and speak Malayalam at home. “For his sake I speak Tamil, as children here know only Tamil,” said his mother J. Bharathi. Now she is teaching him English too.
Seven-year-old Jerome’s mother R. Benita is proud that her son is in class II in a mainstream school. He also speaks English now. Jerome was given a cochlear implant at the age of three.
S. Tilakavathi, an auditory rehabilitation specialist, said parents can make all the difference for these children. “We urge the fathers to tell their children stories at night. And the mothers to train the children in ‘play and learn’ modes during the day,” said one of the trainers.
The mothers are expected to stay in the city for a year to complete therapy sessions that are given after the cochlear implant is placed. The more effort a mother makes, the greater is the success for her child, said a doctor. The expenses for the therapy too, are covered under the insurance scheme.
Though these children may start school later than their peers, by the time they reach college, they are on par academically with the rest, said doctors.
The hospital presents Hari and Jerome as successful examples of the implant and therapy. Ms. Benita and Ms. Barathi, are residents of the city and train mothers who bring their children to the hospital for the implant.