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Cochlear Implants

A miraculous technology for treating severe to profound sensorineural deafness
09:56 PM Feb 27, 2024 IST | Dr Zafarullah Beigh
cochlear implants
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Deafness, whether partial or total, refers to the loss of hearing. Unlike visible impairments, hearing loss is not immediately apparent to others, leading many deaf individuals to suffer in silence. In contrast to blindness, deafness often evokes ridicule rather than sympathy. For children born with hearing loss, the consequences are severe. It's widely understood that without the ability to hear, a child cannot develop speech and language skills. This puts them at a disadvantage in education and limits their future career opportunities. The challenges faced by a child born deaf are different from those of an adult who loses their hearing later in life. However, the common thread among them is the difficulty of navigating a world designed for those who can hear and speak.

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Recognizing the critical importance of hearing in speech and language development, the focus should be on identifying deaf children before the age of one. This is because the brain's auditory cortex, responsible for hearing and speech development, exhibits maximum neural plasticity up to the age of three. Unfortunately, hearing loss often goes undetected until a child is two, three, or even four years old, especially in rural areas where awareness about deafness and its connection to speech and language development is lacking.

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To ensure early detection and intervention, every newborn should undergo hearing screening at birth. This proactive approach has been successfully implemented in countries like the USA, Singapore, Australia, and the UK, resulting in improved speech development, academic performance, and career prospects for deaf children.

Regrettably, India lacks a universal newborn hearing screening program. There is a clear need for such a program to be established, as early detection and treatment can alleviate the suffering caused by hearing impairment. Parents are encouraged to prioritize hearing screening for their newborns, and pediatricians are urged to give it the same level of importance as vaccination.

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For those with severe to profound hearing loss, cochlear implants offer a transformative solution. Over the past two decades, advancements in surgical techniques and technology have led to increasingly better outcomes for cochlear implant recipients. These implants, which restore hearing by bypassing damaged parts of the inner ear, have expanded candidacy criteria to include both adults and children with varying degrees of hearing loss.

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The evaluation process for cochlear implant candidacy involves medical, audiological, and radiographic assessments. While earlier implantation generally leads to better outcomes, both children and adults can benefit from cochlear implants. Long-term studies have shown that cochlear implantation significantly improves language development and academic performance, ultimately facilitating the integration of hearing-impaired individuals into mainstream society.

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At Government Medical College Baramulla, we offer a comprehensive Cochlear Implant Program, comprising a dedicated team of surgeons, audiologists, rehabilitation specialists, and educators. Since its inception in 2023, our program has successfully implanted more than ten candidates, including the world's most advanced cochlear implant, the Nucleus CI632 with Kanso2 Sound Processor. We are committed to providing accessible cochlear implant services to those in need, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to hear and thrive.

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Dr Zafarullah Beigh,Coordinator and Cochlear Implant Surgeon at GMC Baramulla

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