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 Medical Charity

November 2009
The Medical and Social Impact of Hearing Implant Surgery
Number of children born in India with hearing impairment = 4 in every 1000 Number of hearing impaired children who can be helped by cochlear implantation = 1 in every 4 Number of children who actually get a cochlear implant < one percent Though cochlear implants were being performed for over 10 years in the country, less than 20 centres are actively involved with this program.

All the centres in India put together perform less than 2500 surgeries per annum, leaving a huge demand-supply gap. It is estimated that there is a backlog of over 1.5 million patients who need this procedure in India.

Two important reasons for this gap are inadequate awareness and the high cost of the procedure. Also, identifying a child with hearing impairment is a challenge - a majority of the children go unnoticed during the first two years of life, during which the procedure produces best results.

Screening every child born, for hearing impairment is the only answer - and for that, the governments (central and state) would have to make this a part of the routine health services. Even after screening, the other challenge of cost remains, as each implant costs about Rs. five lakhs and affordability is a major issue even for those who are diagnosed.

Rajiv Aarogyasri and SAHI
The late Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy, former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, initiated the first government move to identify the problem of hearing impairment and introduced a mechanism to make available the expensive procedure to every hearing impaired child from the poorer sections in the state. The Government of Andhra Pradesh bears the entire cost of the procedure vide its unique community insurance scheme Rajiv Aarogyasri. Society to Aid the Hearing Impaired (SAHI), an Indian NGO that strives to help poor children with hearing impairment, has also been instrumental in doing yeoman service in this space.

Cochlear Implants – Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad
Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, is amongst the first Indian institutions to perform cochlear implant surgery in the country. The first case was performed in 1996 and ever since the ENT Team has been working hard on creating the ideal environment to tackle the problem in the country. It took them 12 years to finish 100 cases (they did their 100th case in January, 2008). However, they completed the next hundred in just 10 months.

Creating Records
24th October, 2008 was a historic day as the ENT team of Apollo Health City – led by Dr E C Vinaya Kumar - performed a record 18 surgeries in a single day and also completed 200 cochlear implant surgeries at this hospital, both of which are extremely rare achievements. An equally noteworthy milestone was achieved on 15th October, 2009 when the team completed 300 cochlear implant surgeries. What is laudable is the fact that most of the beneficiaries of these surgeries are children from the poorer sections of the community who would otherwise have remained deaf to sounds of life around them.

The Road Ahead
The ENT team's efforts are meant to propel the problem of hearing impairment to the forefront, and create much needed awareness in the community. Its record-breaking achievements are to let the world know about its capability in tackling the problem of hearing impairment in India – achievements that merit both medical and social recognition.

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