Radha Yadav (30) sat in a sound-proof room at Bandra’s Ali Yawar Jung Institute for the Hearing Handicapped (AYJIHH) on Saturday waiting for the doctor to conduct a hearing test on her five-month-old son, Yash.
The Andheri resident had a caesarean delivery, and her doctor told her that getting a thorough check up of the infant —tests for sight and hearing included — was a must before proceeding with immunisation shots.
Yash’s hearing proved to be normal. But he is one of the few infants to undergo screening to rule out deafness. According to AYJIHH, most parents find out about their child’s disorder after the child turns four or five. By then it is too late to begin training and rehabilitation, said R. Rangasayee, director of AYJIHH.
The institute is thus formulating a strategy to ensure screening of newborns to identify hearing problems becomes a universal practice in India.
The institute will be consulting Dr Karl White, director of the National Centre for Hearing Assessment and Management, Utah State University, and paediatric audiologist, Dr Terry Foust, who has conducted similar programmes in Ghana and Costa Rica, for the project.
“Six per cent of Indian children below the age of 10 are deaf,” said Rangasayee. “If the screening of newborns is made protocol, with parental support, a deaf child will be able to enter regular schools by the age of six,” he added.
“More than half the babies in India are born outside hospitals,” said Dr White. “There are big challenges here so we need to come up with a variety of strategies.”
The institute will hold conferences with the medical community on June 1 and with hearing aid manufacturers on June 2 to spread awareness for this cause.