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Art of giving deaf a voice is life changing, says Pune-based speech therapist Alka Hudlikar

pune Updated: Jul 20, 2017 13:32 IST
Jui Dharwadkar
Jui Dharwadkar
Hindustan Times, Pune

Alka Hudlikar (C) with children during speech therapy session at her residence at Prabhat Road in Pune.(Pratham Gokhale/HT PHOTO)

Twenty-two-year-old Titiksha Raul was diagnosed with loss of hearing when she was just a year old.

Today, she has completed a degree in Pharmacy and is looking for a job in the pharmaceutical sector.

Though born deaf, Raul can talk and has been to a normal school.

Hrithik Goel was also found to suffer loss of hearing is now studying Commerce at DAV Public school.

Apart from these, 5-year-old twins, Krishna and Gauri Agrawal, are diagnosed with a hearing impairment, but can talk normally and are pursuing education in a regular school.

These are just a few who have shown that hearing-impaired children can lead normal lives.

What is required is early diagnosis and intervention followed by proper speech therapy.

Nitin Patil, State Commissioner for Disabilities, says that early diagnosis, intervention and speech therapy can, to a great extent, help hearing-impaired children talk normally.

Speaking about a lack of awareness, Patil said, “Deaf children can definitely talk if there is early diagnosis and intervention followed with speech and language therapy. Awareness about this is still low. We have been conducting workshops in rural areas where awareness is even lower. ”

City-based speech therapist Alka Hudlikar who has till date helped hundreds of hearing-impaired children talk and lead normal lives shares similar views.

Hudlikar said, “Children diagnosed to be profoundly deaf can definitely talk and lead lives as any other normal child, but awareness about this is not enough. What is important for this is an early diagnosis, early fitting of binaural hearing aids and the right speech therapy.”

Hudlikar stated that it is important that such a child is introduced to sound by fitting binaural (for both ears) hearing aids at an early age.

“After the age of 5-6-years-old, the child finds it difficult to adjust to sound and considers it a nuisance. Hence, early intervention is important,” she adds.

According to Hudlikar, once the child is introduced to sound the next very important thing for the child is to learn the language, for which speech therapy is required.

Speech and language therapist Aruna Sangekar also emphasises the need for early diagnosis and intervention followed with speech and language therapy to help hearing-impaired children talk and lead normal lives.

She says, “Today early diagnosis has become possible. The early diagnosis can help with the early fitting of hearing aids with which a deaf child can be introduced to sound.

“This has to be followed by speech and language therapy so that a child can learn to talk and lead a normal life.”

Elaborating, Hudlikar says, “As a part of speech therapy, mothers have to be trained to talk to the child. This can help bring a remarkable improvement in deaf children and help them talk.

“There are mothers whose husbands are in the defence sector and who have postings across the country. I encourage them to train in speech and language therapy which they can impart to their children.”

Experiencing the miracle

Recently, team Hindustan Times visited Alka Hudlikar and interacted with several children who are suffering hearing loss, but speak normally.

All these children have been diagnosed with hearing-impairment, but could talk normally. The children have even set their career goals.

Eleven-year-old Neel Apte who is also diagnosed with a hearing impairment shared his enthusiasm about new cars being launched in the market.

The ability to talk normally brought a sense of relief to the parents. Pallavi Agrawal who has twins were detected with hearing impairment when they were 9-10 months old.

She says, “We were in US when our children were born. When we visited India during Diwali we observed that they were not disturbed by the sound of crackers. Later the medical tests showed hearing impairment for both.

“We shifted to Pune when they both were two-years-old. Since then we have been training the kids in speech therapy and both my children who are now five, can talk very normally and are attending a normal school.”

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 13:31 IST