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Speech and sound cast a magical spell

Special Correspondent
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Three-and-a-half year-old Rudraj running to answer the door when the calling bell rings is one of the happiest sights in Dhanya’s life.

“He comes running now when I call him from the kitchen. He now knows the sound of the mixer running and the whistle of the pressure cooker. There was a time when I ached to hear him call ‘amma’. But in the past three months, I’ve heard him rattle off so many new words. Both of us are trying so hard...,” Dhanya is overwhelmed, trying to explain how life has changed for her and her son, ever since Rudraj woke up to the world of sounds three months ago.

It was the happy sounds and laughter of 103 children such as Rudraj, who would perhaps never have been introduced to the magic of sounds and music but for the miracle of a medical technology called cochlear implantation, that reverberated at the majestic Durbar Hall here on Friday.

The occasion was the first family get-together of the child beneficiaries of Shruti Tharangam, a government scheme under which children with congenital hearing disabilities are offered cochlear implantation surgery free of cost. The event was organised by the Kerala Social Security Mission.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said it was so heartening to see the happiness on the faces of the children and their parents because it was a reflection of the satisfaction that he felt about one of the most successful welfare initiative that his government had taken up.

Under the project, which saw the convergence of various government departments and agencies and a very successful public-private partnership initiative in the health sector, 200 children would be initiated into the world of sounds by March 31, through cochlear implantation surgeries. Next year, another 200 children would get the same benefit.

The cost of surgery and the implants together come to Rs.8 lakh. The surgery is being done at Rs.5.6 lakh at the government medical colleges in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode and eight private hospitals.

The cost of the two-year intensive post-implantation speech therapy, to help young children familiarise with sounds and acquire speech, language, and social skills, is also borne by the government.

Mr. Chandy said the government undertook this programme which involved such a huge financial commitment because of the feeling that the children should not suffer from hearing disabilities just because the parents could not afford the treatment.

He said early hearing screening facilities were being augmented at all district and taluk hospitals and that facilities for post-implantation speech therapy would be made extensively available.

All doctors leading the cochlear implantation surgeries at various hospitals under the scheme were honoured at the function. Speaker G. Karthikeyan presided over the function. Social Welfare Minister M.K. Muneer, Finance Minister K.M. Mani, Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar were present.

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