Over one million babies are born with hearing impairment every year in India but early intervention can help get rid of the problem, doctors in New Delhi said on Thursday.
In a panel discussion, doctors unanimously called for screening for deafness in newborns to be made compulsory across all healthcare facilities in the country.
"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," said B.K Rao, chairman of the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
"However, subsequently, they 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," said Rao.
Ashish Lahiri, an ENT Surgeon, said: "When deafness is not detected early and deaf children are not treated early, they will not develop speech. Therefore, mandatory newborn hearing screening and early intervention is imperative. In Europe, North America and Australia, newborn screening for deafness is mandatory."
Lahiri said in India over one million children 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 said deafness can be diagnosed as early as few hours after birth.
Speaking about treatment available, audiologist Asha Agarwal said: "Hearing aids and cochlear implants are 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."