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Stress on early intervention to prevent disability

Special Correspondent

—Photo: V.Ganesan

R. Rangasayee, director, Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped (left), in discussion with Rita Mary, Correspondent, Little Flower Convent at a meeting in Chennai recently. Paul J. Govaerts of The Eargroup, Antwerp-Deurne (second from left) and audiologists M.K.Sheeba and G.Sarala are in the picture.

CHENNAI: Involving the parents of children with hearing loss and the community was essential to improve early intervention and prevention of the disability, said specialists at a meeting here recently.

They were participating in a seminar at the Little Flower Convent for the Blind and Deaf, which was inaugurated by R. Rangasayee, director of the Mumbai-based Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped.

The country was struggling to implement an early intervention and prevention programme because of various problems, Dr. Rangasayee said. About 50 per cent of the 2.5 crore births in the country continued to happen at homes.

This meant that training had to be provided at the grassroots level.

Conservative estimates put the number of children born annually with hearing loss at 25,000. But, only one diploma course in training such children is being offered, that too only in four or five institutions across the country. The training model developed by Balavidyalaya, Chennai, was used as base material and 30 centres were enthused to adopt it.

Low funding and lack of studies on the incidence of congenital deafness had also impacted the implementation of early intervention, he said.

Paul J. Govaerts of The Eargroup, Antwerp-Deurne, Belgium, explained with examples that setting guidelines and following them diligently would not only help in identification and prevention of hearing loss, but also integrate the child into the mainstream.

Belgium has guidelines that screening should be done within a month of birth.

The parents should then be referred for expert counselling and by the third month diagnosis to confirm hearing loss must be done.

The diagnosis includes using ultrasound, ECG, ophthalmic exam, and chromosomal analysis. Within six months the child is fitted with hearing aid and sent to rehabilitation centres. Before the child is a year old, it is evaluated and decision on cochlear implant is taken.

Citing the success of the programme he said, the cost of diagnosis worked out to 10 euros (approx Rs.628) and the cost of carrying forward the diagnosis was 4,500 euros (around Rs. 2.82 lakh), a small price considering that the child would be integrated into normal society.

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