Early detection of congenital hearing disability in children can help in reversing the problem with cochlear implant and auditory verbal therapy. Hearing defect ranks high among all congenital problems, but there is a way out, Managing Director of Madras ENT Research Foundation Mohan Kameswaran told presspersons here on Saturday.

Inaugurating a satellite centre of his foundation in Coimbatore in association with the city-based Hearing Aid Centre, Dr. Kameswaran said it was important to identify early the difficulties that a child experienced in hearing, because, of all the congenital defects the one that pertained to hearing was totally curable. While a hearing aid could be given to a child with partial hearing, those with total loss of hearing would have to undergo cochlear implantation.

A cochlear implant was surgically placed in the inner ear to enable hearing. But, this alone would not do. The child would have to undergo for at least a year-and-a-half a well-structured and persevering auditory habilitation or auditory verbal therapy programme.

Some years ago, children who could not hear were sent to special schools. But, this was changing in India. In developed countries, the total emphasis was on putting them in the mainstream after a comprehensive post-implant auditory and verbal therapy. These countries did not have exclusive schools for children with disability in hearing.

“We had this habilitation centre in Chennai and children from Coimbatore had undergone therapy there. But, their parents had to shift out of Coimbatore and remain in Chennai during the entire course of the therapy and had to incur expenses on stay and other related requirements. The satellite centre in Coimbatore would do away with this expenditure. We want to open more such centres,” Dr. Kameswaran said.

On affordability (each implant cost Rs.4 lakh to Rs.5.5 lakh), he said the State Government's insurance scheme offered partial coverage. The new scheme also assured of this. The Andhra Pradesh Government offered full assistance.

“Our trust (attached to the foundation) mobilises funds for those who cannot afford the implant,” he said. Dr. Kameswaran said an effort was on to make screening of newborn for hearing defects. This would help detect defects early and go in for early corrective measures. Early cochlear implant would enable a child develop hearing and speech more or less at the normal age.

Earlier, along with Managing Director of Ellen Hospital V. Ramachandran and ENT Surgeon R. Anand, Dr. Kameswaran explained the significance of implantation with the case of a four-year-old girl.

Vedhika was brought to Dr. Anand's hospital in Tirupur when she was one-and-a-half-years-old when her parents realised she did not respond to sound. Dr. Kameswaran pointed out that language or speech was a response to what one heard.

Dr. Anand said the girl, now four years old, underwent cochlear implant on Saturday after funds had been raised. Vedhika would be able to hear, but she would now be put on an intensive training that would enable her to speak too.