Saturday, March 06, 2010

There's help for the hearing impaired

There's help for the hearing impaired

Mumbai: Jessica Parekh was born with severe hearing impairment which was detected only when she was 13- months-old. Shattered, her parents consulted several doctors and finally decided to go for a cochlear implant surgery five months later.

Today, 11-year-old Jessica is a smart Class V student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School. She speaks English fluently and has started learning Hindi and Marathi as well.

Jessica will be speaking at the cochlear implant awareness workshop for parents of hearing impaired children on Sunday at the Nanavati Hospital in Vile Parle.

Learning to deal with their child’s impairment has been a tough process for the family but now the Parekhs are keen to share their awareness with others in similar situations.

“When Jessica was born, I could sense that something was wrong. But being new parents we were not ready to accept that,” said Jessica’s mother Purvee. Once the disease had been detected, Jessica was put on hearing aid for three months.

“However Jessica’s case was a bit severe. The hearing aid did not work for her. My husband then browsed the net and learnt about cochlear implants,” says Purvee who now volunteers with a cochlear implant centre in Juhu.

Purvee and her husband Apurva immediately flew to Los Angeles where they met several children with cochlear implants at the House Ear Institute. Jessica too was operated here. “The first implant was done when she was only 18 months old. The second implant was done last year,” says Purvee who believes that it is a sheer scientific miracle that a child with no hearing now leads a totally normal life.

Experts say that there is very little awareness in India about cochlear implants. “In Mumbai, we have done barely 700 cochlear implants since 1999,” says Dr Dr Ramesh Oza, Head of Audiology, Nanavati Hospital. The largest number of implants in India, incidentally were done in Mumbai. Oza, who did the initial investigations on Jessica, is of the opinion that better awareness could help many more children across India.

A cochlear implant could cost anywhere between Rs 5.35 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, depending on the quality of the implant. “It’s up to the parents to decide which one they can afford. The implant with the most effective sense of sound costs the highest,” said Oza.