District admin's sound plan to help hearing-impaired kids

Sep 23, 2013, 00:13 IST | Priyankka Deshpande

Social welfare department has proposed to assist children from financially weaker sections suffering from loss of hearing by funding expensive cochlear implant surgeries

For parents of seven-year-old Om Sathe the fact that their son has started hearing and speaking is yet to sink in. Three generations in the family have faced auditory problems; so did Om, till recently. Being from a disadvantaged background, the kid’s parents had limited options. However, to ensure a happy future for Om, they collected the money so he could undergo a cochlear implant surgery.

Realising that the Sathes are not alone, the district social welfare department has decided to assist children from financially weaker sections suffering from loss of hearing. With a budget of Rs 25 lakh for this financial year, the department is now approaching various hospitals in the district so they would bear at least half the cost of a cochlear implant surgery (which comes with a price tag of close to Rs 6 lakh), and the department would cover the rest to support such kids. The scheme has also been forwarded for the state government’s approval.

Elaborating on this, district social welfare officer Sanjay Kadam said that the budget had initially been earmarked for the children’s health scheme, However, on fathoming the huge number of hearing impaired among the population in the district, the department had decided to utilise the amount for the children suffering from hearing loss so they would be able to lead normal life.

“There are 2,941 hearing impaired people in the district (excluding Pune city) and a detailed survey has revealed that due to the hefty cost of cochlear implant surgery, people choose to live their entire life without hearing. However, if this implant is placed at a tender age, the kid would not only able to hear, but with training he or she would also develop the ability to speak,” said Kadam.

He added that the Zilla Parishad has already sanctioned the scheme and Rs 25 lakh would be spent on affected kids of poor families on an experimental basis.  “If we get a good response, we could also ask the Zilla Parishad to earmark more money from next year,” said Kadam. The department has sounded out Cochlear Pune for Hearing and Speech (CPHS) and the institution is prepared to pay half the cost for every such surgery.

“The damage to the cochlear is the prime reason behind inborn deafness among children, and the surgery is extremely expensive. That is the precise reason our institute conducted workshops at taluka level, and is now identifying kids in the 2-5 age group, who have loss of hearing.

Surgeries would now be performed on them free of cost,” said Dr. Avinash Wachasundar of CPHS. He also revealed that after the operation, a child would be imparted speech therapy.  Meanwhile, a member of Pune chapter of Indian Medical Association, Dr Pradeep Khinvasara, told MiD DAY that IMA would aid this cause by providing medicines necessary after the cochlear surgery.

Rs 25 L
Amount earmarked by district social welfare department for the scheme on an experimental basis

Hear and now
A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

Lending an ear: Anatomy of the human ear 

Cochlear implants may help provide hearing in patients who are deaf because of damage to sensory hair cells in their cochleas. The implants often can enable sufficient hearing for better understanding of speech 

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