An indigenous cochlear implant device, costing under Rs.50,000, is likely to be ready by the end of 2011, former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has said.
Efforts are on by the DRDO to develop such a device.
While there have been substantial improvements in cochlear implants made by international manufacturers, the cost remains high and they remain out of reach of most people.
Currently, the device costs between Rs.6 lakh and 8 lakh, he said, speaking at the 63rd annual conference of the Association of Otolaryngologists of India, organised by its Tamil Nadu branch.
A couple of more lakhs would have to be spent on operation and therapy costs.
While in the West these costs are borne by insurance, in the absence of such an arrangement in India, it would be essential to develop a cost-effective model on mission mode.
The government could also consider waiving levies on import of the device.
Mr. Kalam stressed on the need to train sufficient number of professionals to meet the demand.
There were an estimated one million profoundly deaf persons in the country. In addition, there were over 1.2 million with severe hearing disability, 0.9 million with moderate, and 7.1 million people with mild hearing disability.
The need was for approximately 85,000 professionals to help persons with hearing impairment, while only 5000 people were trained to do so.
Speaking about the Sound Hearing 2030 Mission, supported by a number of healthcare institutions in the country, and the WHO, Mr. Kalam suggested a mobile speech and hearing van tour rural areas in order to facilitate medical care for all with hearing impairments.
Attention should also be paid to noise pollution, one of the most important causes of deafness, he said and urged the association members to take this up seriously.
M.A.M Ramaswamy, Pro-Chancellor, Annamalai University, released the conference souvenir and spoke of the need to create cost-effective medical devices that would be accessible to all.
Anirban Biswas, president of the association, Mohan Kameswaran, organising chairman of the conference, and Jacinth Cornelius, organising secretary, spoke.
Bhaben Choudhury, incoming president of the association, took charge formally on the occasion.