Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Cochlear™ India to learn about the impact of hearing loss and the range of solutions they offer to resolve this. The campaign is called #SoundsOfCricket, with Cochlear™’s Global Hearing Ambassador Brett Lee, world-famous cricket celebrity championing the cause.
Here’s what he has to say: “I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to experience what I hear, whether that’s the sounds of everyday life, the sounds of loved ones, or the sounds of cricket”
We also had the pleasure of meeting the young recipient of a Cochlear™ implant and interacting with his mother, and his doctor, Dr. Vasanthi Anand, MS (ENT), who heads the cochlear implant program at Manasa Cochlear Implant and ENT Center in Bangalore. She is actively involved in awareness programs and screening camps, and arranging funding for needy patients. A lively Q&A with the doctor and Cochlear™ India representatives was very enlightening.
Did you know:
- 360 million people suffer from disabling hearing loss worldwide, of which 91% are adults and 9% – a whopping 32 million are children below 15 years.?
- There is no age bar for hearing loss. Up to 5 of every 1000 infants are born with or develop disabling hearing loss in early childhood. And nearly 1 out of every 3 people over 65 years suffers from hearing loss
- 90% of the hearing impaired children are born to hearing parents
- 1.10 billion young people worldwide are at a risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices
- 50% of hearing loss can be prevented through public health actions including immunizations, healthy ear and hearing care habits and effective treatment, both for acute and chronic ear conditions
- 60% of childhood hearing loss is preventable
Hearing loss can have a huge impact on the quality of life as it limits your ability to fully engage with the people and world around you, and in the process, undermine your physical and emotional well-being.
Thanks to modern technology, they can regain their natural ability to listen, communicate and enjoy their everyday lives.
What causes hearing loss?
Hearing loss, which is the partial or complete inability to hear sound in one or both ears, can be caused by:
- Birth defects
- Aging process
- Head or ear injuries
- Ototoxic reactions to drugs
- Exposure to excessive noise
What happens when hearing loss is not addressed in a timely manner?
Children suffer from
- Delayed language development
- Poor performance at school
- Social isolation
- Higher risk of injury
- Increased poverty
It is heartening to know that one no longer has to feel ashamed of or dejected with hearing loss. Of course, the first step towards treatment is understanding hearing loss and its causes, and the type of hearing loss, so that the right course of treatment can be chosen.
Many children suffer from hearing loss due to a problem with the hearing nerve. For these children, a cochlear implant is the only option available. Cochlear™ implants have been successfully used in children in India for over 15 years with excellent results. These children have developed speech skills like normal hearing people.
What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that provides a sense of sound to someone who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. It consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear (the sound processor) and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin (the implant). An implant is made of:
- A microphone, which picks up sound from the environment.
- A speech processor, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone.
- A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses.
- An electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collects the impulses from the stimulator and sends them to different regions of the auditory nerve.
It is important to remember that although the implant will not restore normal hearing, it gives a hearing impaired person a close representation of sounds in the environment, helping them understand speech.
How does a cochlear implant work?
It is important to know that cochlear implants are NOT the same as a hearing aid. While hearing aids amplify sounds for detection by damaged ears, cochlear implants completely bypass the damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are transmitted via the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. This is different from normal hearing and requires time to learn. Learn more about how cochlear implants work
Here is an amazing video showing Cochlear™ recipients experience the Wireless Accessories for the first time.
Who gets cochlear implants?
Children and adults who are hearing impaired or severely hard-of-hearing are eligible for cochlear implants.
Some adults who have lost all or most of their hearing later in life can also benefit from cochlear implants. They learn to associate the signal provided by an implant with sounds they remember. This often provides these individuals with the ability to understand speech solely by listening through the implant, without requiring any visual cues such as those provided by lip-reading or sign language.
How does someone receive a cochlear implant?
Use of a cochlear implant requires both a surgical procedure and significant therapy to learn or relearn the sense of hearing. Not everyone performs at the same level with this device. The decision to receive an implant should involve discussions with medical specialists, including an experienced cochlear-implant surgeon. Surgical implantations are almost always safe, although complications are a risk factor, just as with any kind of surgery. An additional consideration is learning to interpret the sounds created by an implant. This process takes time and practice.
Some misconceptions about cochlear implants in children
My child will start speaking automatically after the surgery
Each child needs to undergo Auditor Verbal Therapy, which teaches the child the meaning of speech sounds.
I will wait until my child is 5 years old as there are other children in the family who started speaking at a later age
For young children who are severely hard-of-hearing, implantation while young exposes them to sounds during an optimal period to develop speech and language skills. Children, who receive a cochlear implant followed by intensive therapy before 18 months of age, can hear better, understand sound and music, and speak better than their peers who receive implants when they are older. Studies show that eligible children who receive a cochlear implant at a young age develop language skills that equal those of children with normal hearing, and many succeed in mainstream classrooms. The longer one waits, the poorer the outcome is.
My child will manage with a hearing aid
Hearing aids only amplify sounds and will not work for children with hearing loss due to an issue with the hearing nerve.
My child will lose her residual hearing after surgery
A child’s hearing capability will only improve with cochlear implants. The surgery will not affect her residual hearing.
Can you believe that although human beings are born with five senses – vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch, every parent gets their child tested for long sightedness but don’t give the same attention to hearing loss?. There is scientific proof that hearing and loss of hearing has the most impact on an individual’s mental and social development.
Hearing loss is often taken for granted in India, despite the fact that every year crores of Indian children are born deaf or are detected with a certain level of hearing loss. These children cannot develop speech and language abilities and must resort to sign language and lip reading, putting them at a disadvantage in school, limiting their future.
Please do get your children tested for hearing loss. Don’t wait until it is too late. If your child is diagnosed with hearing loss and has been advised with a cochlear implant, why not talk to parents of children who have received cochlear implants so that you can make an informed decision?
- More about Cochlear implants in India http://www.cochlear.com/wps/wcm/connect/in/home/discover/cochlear-implants and Cochlear’s wireless accessories http://www.cochlear.com/wps/wcm/connect/in/home/discover/cochlear-wireless-accessories
- How to take care of overall hearing health
- Aural rehabilitation in children with hearing loss
- Hearing loss treatment
- Taking good care for healthy ears