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SAHI: Hear, Now and Always
Chitra Sanam
It’s become a mass, morning ritual to drive through rush-hour traffic, hear an earful of jarring horns and squealing tires and flinch away in pain. For some, even their fave rock band’s beats from the iPod don’t seem to drown out the din of traffic.

Ironically, if you were to see a toddler being fitted with a hearing implant, and then see that child hear for the first time in his life, it’s a similar reaction. The child twitches in pain and cringes at the first sound he hears. Some even cry, but wait a few minutes, and they warm up to voices they hear and begin to enjoy it. It’s like experiencing an epiphany to see them perceive sound. It’s bound to make you stop the next day on your way to work, and for a moment take in as much as possible of the screeching and honking in peak-hour traffic.

Those who are hearing impaired have a larger social problem
Just the way we don’t stop to smell the roses anymore, being caught up with everything we do, we also take our ability to hear for granted, don’t we? ENT surgeon and executive committee member of Apollo Hospitals’ Society to Aid the Hearing Impaired (SAHI), Dr E C Vinaya Kumar couldn’t agree more. He further adds, “Those who can’t hear are made fun of in our country. People come forward to help a blind man cross the road, but they curse the deaf. We don’t even have enough organizations that work for the deaf.”

In Andhra Pradesh alone, every year around 2,500 children are born deaf. If they aren’t given any treatment in the first 3-5 years of their lives, they will never be able to hear. “Also, they won’t be able to learn to speak as early years are crucial for speech development and these children will lose a chance to attain their full potential,” adds Dr Vinaya Kumar. Being aware of this, SAHI, comprising ENT surgeons, audiologists, medical professionals and concerned citizens, was set up in 2004 to reach out to poor children with timely medical help. SAHI, through its medical camps identifies children in rural areas with little or no access to medical treatment, and reaches out to them.

‘Gift an Ear’ project
With its ‘Gift an Ear’ project SAHI gives financial assistance to children with severe to profound hearing loss, to undergo cochlear implant surgery. Most children who are born deaf can be treated with the cochlear implant surgery, and grow up to lead normal lives with normal hearing. Unfortunately, very few can afford this surgical treatment.

The cost of the cochlear implant system, which is imported, costs between Rs 5.25 lakhs and Rs 9.5 lakhs (depending on the model). In addition, the cost of surgery, hospitalization and habilitation is approximately Rs 70,000. All surgeries are carried out with the help of and at Apollo Hospitals’ Cochlear Implant Clinic, which is the only fully equipped implant centre in the state to conduct surgeries. SAHI has also started a Cochlear Implant Club, which enables patients, their relatives, medical personnel and others to interact with each other regarding issues related to cochlear implant surgery.

Deaf free mandal
SAHI has adopted Nawabpet mandal of the backward district of Mahaboobnagar, AP, and has set up the Deaf Free Mandal project that aims at evicting all ear-related deformities there. The project includes intensive public awareness programs, conduction of regular camps for children below 15 years of age, distribution of hearing aids and corrective surgical procedures for the hearing impaired.

Grow a tree… for free
Free saplings are given to all recipients of hearing aids as SAHI’s commitment towards creating and maintaining a wholesome and harmonious ecological environment.
Dr. E C Vinaya Kumar
What SAHI does
  • Organize periodic awareness programs for the general public, school children and teachers.
    SAHI has carried out over 50 surgeries so far.
  • SAHI also played an instrumental role in including cochlear Implant surgery for children less than 6 years of age in the Rajiv Aarogyasri Community Health Insurance Scheme.
  • SAHI conducts free surgeries to the underprivileged. People are selected either from camps or from patients with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, after evaluation.
  • Conduct periodical check-up programs for the benefit of children belonging to poor socio economic community.
  • Provide hearing aids to improve hearing ability.
  • Provide state-of-the-art medical and surgical aid including micro ear surgeries and cochlear implants to clear (partially or totally) the hearing disability.
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