Imagine a world without sound, imagine a world where people can’t communicate or interact; its unimaginable. However, some unfortunate individuals have to experience this. Almost three in a thousand are born with significantly reduced hearing or NO HEARING. Similarly, a significant number of mankind lose their hearing due to several reasons in their lifetime. 

Those who are born without any hearing or significantly reduced hearing, have difficulty in learning the art of speech, hence either they have distorted speech or can’t speak at all. 

There are several reasons which are thought to be the causative factors for deafness: – 

1. Some infections like rubella, mumps, chicken pox; in either of the mother or the child 

2. Some medications having adverse effect on the hearing mechanism  

3. Injury to the head or the ear 

4. Very low oxygen during birth 

5. Genetic 

6. Age related deafness, etc 

Medical science has grown in leaps and bounds, a pleasing solution to the above conditions has been derived. Titanium made electrical device has been invented, which conducts sound from the atmosphere, bypasses the mechanism of hearing and directly stimulates the nerve of hearing; yes a deaf person starts hearing. 

This device is called COCHLEAR IMPLANT and it is surgically implanted into the inner ear. 

The brain has a unique quality of receiving and recognising sound, understanding its meaning, using it in speech. However, unfortunately this characteristic of the brain is not everlasting, it is rapidly lost by the age of 4 to 6 years, which is termed as plasticity of brain. 

Hence to get maximum benefit from hearing point of view, in a new born with deafness, cochlear implantation needs to be done at the earliest, latest by 5 to 6 years.  

Here a question may arise that, how can hearing loss be detected in a child? There is a programme termed “Neonatal Hearing Screening” where a newborn is tested for hearing threshold. It is a painless, simple test with minimum cost, needing few minutes where the hearing level is determined. This screening is mandatory in the western world, similarly looking at its importance; the test is also being made mandatory in many public & private sector hospitals in our country. 

Once a diagnosis of complete hearing loss is made, planning for cochlear implantation surgery is done after a thorough discussion with the parents regarding the outcome. Following surgery and removal of stitches, this implant is made to work by switching it on, following which auditory training is given by a specialist, who is a part of the team. Once the child starts hearing he or she learns to speak. 

An individual who was termed as “deaf & dumb” few years back, identified as a burden to the family & society, has a ray of hope at present, to grow up as a normal individual. The outcome of cochlear implantation depends on early identification and management, hence TIME IS ESSENCE. Let us all be thankful to the amazing gift of scientific invention and take advantage of its outcome. Let no individual grow up with special needs. Let everyone appreciate the sweet sounds of the world. LET THERE BE NOISE.  

Dr Manojendra Narayan Bhattacharyya, DLO (Cal), DOHNS (England), MRCS (Edinburgh), MRCS (ENT Head & Neck Surgery), Consultant ENT Head & Neck Surgeon, Peerless Hospital 

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