Sept 2017 Daily Mail

The pair exchanged 'I love you's before her husband leaned in for a kiss. They then settle back in their chairs before a doctor in the room asked the woman if she heard the kiss. The shocked look on her face reveals that she had just registered the sound when the doctor asked her about it. Grinning from ear to ear, she says: 'I did!' before breaking down in tears, triggering the doctor to tear-up as well.

The kissThe kiss

The kiss

Sept 2017 Netdoctor and Daily Mail 

Studying geriatric birds could lead to new treatments for humans with hearing problems. There would be no need for hearing aids if only humans had ears more like those of barn owls, suggests new research published in the Royal Society Proceedings B. This is because barn owls suffer no hearing loss as they age because (unlike humans) they are able to regenerate cells in their inner ears. Owls use this sensitivity to help them locate prey. While other birds experience minimal hearing loss when they get older, new research has revealed that barn owls suffer no hearing loss at all. Humans, on the other hand, will have lost more than 30 decibels of sensitivity to high-sound frequencies by the age of 65.

Barn OwlBarn OwlGeorg Klump of the University of Oldenburg, Germany, a researcher on the study, said  "Birds can repair their ears like (humans) can repair a wound. Humans cannot re-grow the sensory cells of the ears but birds can do this.” Further research into understanding how hearing is preserved in barn owls could lead to new treatment options for deaf humans, the experts said. Dr Ulrike Langemann, of the University of Oldenburg in Germany, said: 'Barn owls have ageless ears - evolution has favoured birds to benefit from regeneration in the inner ear that is absent in mammals.

Sept 2017 Herald Sun

New brain mapping will test whether cochlear implants and hearing aids are helping hearing-impaired babies’ language centres to develop. The scans will provide an objective test of hearing for children too young to explain what they can hear. BABILab, at Melbourne’s Bionics Institute, will use sensors in skull caps to measure areas of brain activity as the babies engage in auditory and language tasks. The scans will be compared with those from infants with normal hearing. Experts can then use them to tweak hearing aid levels.

Baby LauraBab Laura Baby Laura, 4 months wears the skull cap

The institute’s head of translational hearing research, Professor Colette McKay, said current tests of infants’ hearing were an “approximate best guess”. Hearing devices were then adjusted over time, as the child became increasingly able to give feedback. But Prof McKay said hearing loss needed to be treated individually because each hearing impairment could have a different cause.

“When a baby is born, their brain is ready to develop all the structures that support language development and speech perception and prod­uction,” Prof McKay said. “You need to have the auditory input in order to develop that structure and make it work. The earlier you intervene and give them sound, the better outcome for their whole quality of life.”

Research fellow Dr Hamish Innes-Brown said EEG tests of the brain’s electrical activity could be hijacked by the electrical emissions from a cochlear implant. But the new scans use functional near-infra-red spectroscopy (fNIRS), which is a light-based technology. It measures oxygenated blood, correlating with brain regions that become active when certain sounds are heard or understood. “We’re measuring how the brain, itself, is responding to sounds,” Dr Innes-Brown said.

Prof McKay said the test would also allow examination of networks across the brain that were contributing to language development. “These language areas in the brain should be highly connected. If they’re not, we could be able to target them with some sort of speech and language therapy,” she said. “Or if a child was wearing a hearing aid and their language wasn’t developing, it could be a sign they should try a cochlear implant instead.” The team is developing a purpose-built fNIRS machine which, if their proof-of-­concept trial is successful, they hope to roll out to other hearing centres. Children aged four and under, who are both hearing-impaired and have normal hearing, are needed for the institute’s study.

Sept 2017 Ahmedabad Mirror

It was a moment Shyam Prajapati had been waiting for and when it finally arrived, it left him too overwhelmed to be able to speak. His five-year-old son Prince heard sounds for the very first time after his cochlear implant. A bit shocked, initially, because sound was an alien sensation to the child, he began crying upon hearing the light sounds generated by the computer controlling his implant and speech processor. Prajapati, 32, a diamond polisher from Khodiyarnagar, believes his son will soon be able to hear, comprehend and respond to voices. “The doctor has assured us that with surgery and therapy, my son will be able to hear well and will even learn to speak. What greater joy for a parent?”

Prince Prajapati The moment 5-y-old Prince  heard first sounds

Dr Rajesh Vishwakarma, head of the ENT department, said, it is a usual reaction for children to cry because even the light sounds come across as cacophonic for someone who has never experienced that sensation before. “The child starts hearing the world right from the womb and gets used to it by the time it is born. However, in this case, the child is hearing very late and will take some time to adjust. But once that happens, a whole new world of opportunities awaits Prince,” he said. Prince is among 36 children who recently underwent the cochlear surgery at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital under Gujarat government’s school health programme. Over the past four years, the hospital, which was the first government- run institution in the country to offer this service in 2004, has given the gift of hearing to 408 children. Not only are the surgeries conducted free of cost for kids under six years of age, even the post-operative care and the maintenance and replacement of the machine for 10 years is free. A cochlear implant device costs anywhere between Rs 2 lakh-3 lakh. Adding the cost of post-operative care in private hospitals, the total bill could be well over Rs 6 lakh, said Dr Vishwakarma. Workshops are held regularly at Civil Hospital to explain to the parents of children with profound hearing loss all about cochlear implant, equipment care, maintenance and speech development methods.

These children will soon be integrated into mainstream schools. With the ability to hear, they will learn to speak and comprehend and have equal opportunity to pursue their dreams.” Harshita Bhaktani, 6, was the first patient to be operated under the government programme in December 2013. Her father Haresh Bhaktani said, “My daughter was just two years old when she underwent the surgery. We were very worried then but the doctors instilled confidence in us. Today, Harshita is in Class II and has a chance to compete with others her age on an equal platform. The surgery was the best decision we took.”  Vinod Chauhan, a farmer from Khambat, got his son Pravin, 4, to the hospital five days ago for the surgery. “I do not understand much about science and medicine. But I have faith in the doctors. They told me my child will start hearing soon and I believe them,” he said.

The ENT department has trained surgeons from across the country in carrying out the surgery. Two other hospitals in Gujarat – Gandhinagar Civil Hospital and Rajkot Civil Hospital – also offer these services to enable children with profound hearing loss become self-reliant and get integrated into the mainstream society. Dr Manish Mehta, HOD of ENT and in-charge medical Superintendent at Rajkot Civil Hospital, said, “I was mentored by Dr Vishwakarma. In December 2016 we carried out our first operation. We have patients coming over from all over Saurashtra and have completed 38 surgeries till now.”

The problems after this surgery are few and far in between, assures Dr Vishwakarma. There are mostly software glitches that can be fixed soon enough. “In case of hardware damage in accidents or injuries, the cost for a new machine is borne by the manufacturer for a period of 10 years,” he said.