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March 2018 YourStory.com

Cochlear designs, manufactures and delivers hearing implants and is committed to providing children who suffer hearing loss with the best hearing experience. Former Australian cricketer Brett Lee is Cochlear’s global ambassador. 

Brett Lee

For World Hearing Day, Cochlear launched Hearing Matters, a campaign to spread awareness about hearing loss in India, especially educating parents about the importance of screening newborns for hearing loss. A survey by Cochlear India and First Moms Club in New Delhi found that 84.1 percent mothers believe that children should be tested for hearing loss at birth, but only 38.9 percent actually had their child screened.

Mothers are aware of the need to get their children tested for hearing impairment, but do not know what they must do about it. Reports show that five to six out of 1000 newborns are hard of hearing, but they are not identified till irreversible damage has already been done.

Brett Lee says, “All too often, we take little things for granted such as how much hearing matters. It was a big wake up call for me when my son was diagnosed with hearing loss at the young age of five. We were fortunate enough to restore his hearing, but what about the millions of children who suffer with the condition every day? Early screening for hearing loss can ensure that children are diagnosed and treated early, allowing them to grow up into well-adjusted adults.”

Cochlear quotes that five percent of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss. Of them, 91 percent are adults and nine percent are children. Fifty percent of hearing loss is preventable through immunising children against diseases like measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps, healthy ear and hearing care habits, and effective treatment of ear infections.

Brett Lee & kids

“A cochlear implant is a medical device that mimics the natural hearing function of the inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the inner ear and send electrical signals that provide hearing, directly to the hearing nerve. Cochlear implants may be a good solution for people with moderate to profound hearing loss in one or both ears who no longer get much or any benefit from hearing aids,” reads the Hearing Matters webpage.

Ananya Nakra received an implant when she was two-and-a-half years old. Over the next 11 years of her life, she has actively participated in dance, arts, and sports in school, and says that she can even sit at the back of her classroom and hear everything! Nahum Rajkumar’s mother cannot stop gushing about the implant that her son had when he was four years old. “Soon after the implant was switched on, he could hear and imitate high frequency sounds! Even a sound like ‘shhh’ – which is very important when it comes to language,” she says.

Brett LeeBrett Lee: I am passionate about raising hearing loss awareness in India. I have been visiting this wonderful country for the last two decades and it is my second home. Through “Hearing Matters,” we aim to bring focus to hearing health and the importance of early intervention. Around 32 million children across the globe suffer some form of hearing loss and India has a big population of this. We want to encourage every parent to get their child’s hearing tested and offer support for parents about potential treatments for hearing loss. This World Hearing Day, I hope we can raise awareness of hearing loss through the “Hearing Matters” campaign to help more children hear what the world has to offer.

It has been such a wonderful learning experience to interact with those who’ve received cochlear implants in India. I have travelled extensively across this wonderful country and met hundreds of cochlear implant recipients across cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chandigarh, Kochi, Trivandrum, Kozhikode, and Guwahati over the last few years. Each story is so powerful in its own way – so many adults and children who struggled with hearing loss now rejoice at the little sounds in life, such as the sound of their families laughing, the birds chirping or the rain beating against their window. Many have gone on to chase their dreams and it fills me with so much hope. With greater awareness, I’m convinced that we can reach more people, tackle hearing loss on multiple fronts and eventually bring down the numbers, globally and in India.

Early screening for hearing loss, particularly at birth is so important and Kerala’s efforts to push for universal newborn hearing screening are a great start! India must now try to make this a nationwide effort.

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