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Breaking the silence

Siblings from Kentucky get their hearing back after twin implantations at Apollo Hospital. Jaya Shroff reports.

health and fitness Updated: Dec 09, 2007 04:33 IST
Jaya Shroff

It’s going to be a perfect Christmas this year for the Yodor family. The family of 10 — parents Enos and Sarah and eight children — plan to listen to carols together because Dena, 10, and Ananais, 6, have undergone successful cochlear implantations at New Delhi’s Apollo Hospital.“This Christmas shall be very special for all of us,” says a smiling Sarah.

Both Dena and Ananais were born with hearing defects. “Hearing defects can be hereditary at times and in their case, they inherited it from their father, who has some hearing impairment. It became pronounced in these two children, who could not hear or speak at all,” says Dr Ameet Kishore, senior consultant surgeon at Apollo Hospital.

The high cost of the surgery made it impossible for Enos — who makes barns and storage sheds for a living — to get the children treated in the US. He and his wife Sarah got in touch with the neighbourhood church, which promised to support the children’s treatment.

John Schmucker, a brother at the church, and two other committee members raised funds for the family. “We had to look for a good hospital, which not just ensured a sure shot treatment but where the costs were also low,” said Schmucker.

“We got in touch with Quest Med Tourism, which got us connected with the doctors at Apollo. We were all a little nervous and had several queries, which were eventually sorted out by way of several three-way conversations with the family, mediator and the doctor,” he added. After six months of deliberation, the Yodor family and Schmucker decided to fly down to New Delhi. “After we met the doctor, we were sure our kids were in safe hands,” said Sarah.

The two–week treatment cost the family approximately Rs 12 lakh (US$30,000) per child. “The best price we were quoted in the US was US$43, 500 per child, which did not include the investigation costs,” said Enos. The cost difference, he said, would have been higher if the implant was cheaper. The cost of the implant they used was approximately $US 20,000, which accounted for two-thirds of the total cost of the surgeries.

The surgery was done on December 1 and both children are now on the way to recovery. The family wants to visit Agra to the Taj before flying back to the US.

Cochlear implants, coupled with intensive post-implantation therapy, can help young children acquire speech, language and social skills. Most children who receive implants are between two and eight years old. Early implantation provides exposure to sounds that can be helpful during the critical period when children learn speech and language skills . “It is like learning a new language altogether. The younger one is, the better is the grasping ability,” says Dr Kishore.

“The children should start communicating in about six months. After going back home, they will be constantly monitored and will later need a professional hearing and speech therapist,” he adds. The Yodors have already tied up with the Lexington Speech and Therapy Centre, where the children will undergo speech therapy. “The centre will charge me US$250 per child for six months,” says Enos. “It’s a second life for them. They will have to start learning sounds from scratch,” he adds.

Although using implants is possible in older patients, speech usually remains a problem for them, as the brain responds slower to learning as compared with children. However, adults who have lost all or most of their hearing later in life can benefit from implants.