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25 September 2009
New Delhi, India

The initiative could help India in early detection and intervention to tackle the problem of hearing impairment in children
With over 10 lakh children in India being born with hearing impairment every year, doctors in the country have called upon the government to make screening for deafness in newborns mandatory across all healthcare facilities in the country.

In a unanimous appeal to the country's government the doctors said that early detection and intervention can help India get rid of the problem, reports IANS.

“A deaf may not be dumb right from his or her birth. In our country, deafness in children is often also associated with dumbness. In reality, hearing impaired children do have the capability to learn and speak after birth, and often babble spontaneously,” Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Chairman B K Rao said.

Speaking at a panel discussion on the issue, he further pointed out that such children stop babbling and do not develop speech simply because they are unable to hear themselves and others around them.

“The unfortunate aspect is that hearing impairment in children often remains undetected, until the child is a few years old,” Rao said.

Elaborating on the problem Ashish Lahiri, an ENT Surgeon, said that unless deafness is detected and deaf children are treated early, they fail to develop capabilities of speech.

“Mandatory newborn hearing screening and early intervention is imperative. In Europe, North America and Australia, newborn screening for deafness is mandatory,” he stressed.

Lahiri further said that over 10 lakh children in India are born every year with some kind of hearing impairment.

Doctors said research studies have shown that children diagnosed before six months, and who receive appropriate and consistent treatment, have significantly better language levels than children identified after this time period.

They panel also said that deafness can be diagnosed as early as few hours after birth.

Speaking about the various treatments available in the country, audiologist Asha Agarwal said that hearing aids and cochlear implants are some of the treatment of choice, depending on the degree of hearing loss.

“The good part is an increasing number of parents in India are opting for early diagnosis and treatment for their young kids,” she stated.

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