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World Hearing Day

By: M Ahmad

A person is said to have hearing loss if he/she is not able to hear and it can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound, and can affect one or both ears. Major causes of hearing loss include congenital or early onset childhood hearing loss, chronic middle ear infections, noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and ototoxic drugs that damage the inner ear.

Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit in humans today. As per WHO estimates in India, there are approximately 63 million people, who are suffering from significant auditory impairment; this places the estimated prevalence at 6.3% in Indian population. As per NSSO survey, currently there are 291 persons per one lakh population who are suffering from severe to profound hearing loss. Of these, a large percentage is children between the ages of 0 to 14 years.

With such a large number of hearing-impaired young Indians, it amounts to a severe loss of productivity, both physical and economic. An even larger percentage of our population suffers from milder degrees of hearing loss and unilateral (one sided) hearing loss. Over 27,000 children are born deaf every year in India. The second largest country in the world, India, is home to approximately 63 million people of the deaf and hard of hearing community. Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide – or 1 in 4 people – will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050, warns the World Health Organisation.

Hearing loss can affect a person in many ways viz fewer educational and job opportunities due to impaired communication, social withdrawal due to reduced access to services and difficulties communicating with others, emotional problems caused by a drop in self-esteem and confidence, social isolation, loneliness and stigma, impact on society and economy, effects on years lived with disability (YDLs) and disability adjusted life years (DALYs)

Aids and assistive devices are the supporting devices used by persons with disabilities in improving their quality of life in terms of mobility, communication and for performing their daily activities. There is a wide range of assistive devices available to meet the needs of person with disabilities.

By these Aids & assistive devices, people with disabilities becomes independent and their participation in the society increases. Assistive technology enables people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labour market and civic life. Assistive technology reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers. Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated, and locked into poverty, thereby increasing the impact of disease and disability on a person, their family, and society.

Assistive Technology for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is special technology built to assist those who are deaf or suffer from hearing loss. Examples of such technology include hearing aids, video relay services, tactile devices, alerting devices and technology for supporting communication. The deaf or hard of hearing community has a difficult time to communicate and perceive information as compared to hearing individuals.

Thus, these individuals often rely on visual and tactile mediums for receiving and communicating information. The use of assistive technology and devices provides this community with various solutions to their problems by providing higher sound (for those who are hard of hearing), tactile feedback, visual cues and improved technology access. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing utilize a variety of assistive technologies that provide them with improved accessibility to information in numerous environments.  Most devices either provide amplified sound or alternate ways to access information through vision and/or vibration.

Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) can dramatically improve the lives of people with hearing loss. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing utilize a variety of assistive technologies that provide them with improved accessibility in numerous environments. Most devices either provide amplified sound or alternate ways to access information through vision and/or vibration. These technologies can be grouped into three general categories: hearing technology; alerting devices; and communication supports.

Within each main category there may be subcategories based on different purposes or intended audiences when utilizing the technology. The overall goal of all of these devices is improved accessibility to information most people gain through their hearing. Assistive listening systems and devices bridge the gap between us and the sound source by eliminating the effects of distance, background noise, and reverberation. A cochlear implant can help a person with severe to profound hearing loss. It gives that person a way to hear when a hearing aid is not enough. Unlike a hearing aid, cochlear implants do not make sounds louder.

It has been the constant endeavour of the Government to provide the disabled persons with aids/appliance at minimum costs.

The requirement for providing of aids/appliances, which are essential for the social, economic and vocational rehabilitation of the disabled persons, has come into sharp focus, particularly after the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, which came into force in 1996.

Various surveys conducted from time to time have made it clear that India has a very large number of disabled persons. Many of them come from low-income groups. Disability restricts their opportunities for leading functionally productive lives. From the application of modern technology, there have emerged a number of aids, which can reduce the effects of disabilities and enhance the economic potential of the disabled.

To illustrate a wheel chair, an artificial limb, crutch, a brace, a splint can greatly improve the mobility of physically disabled individual. Similarly, with the help of a powerful hearing aid, persons with some residual hearing can be helped to carry on many activities of daily living.

Low vision to read, print and undertake other activities resulting in their rehabilitation. However, a large number of disabled persons are deprived of the benefits of these appliances because of their inability to find funds to purchase them. The main objective of the Scheme is to assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation, by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhance their economic potential. The aids and appliances supplied under the Scheme must be ISI. Provision of Cochlear implant for 500 children per year with Hearing disability with a ceiling of Rs. 6.00 lakh per unit will result in providing lifelong relief for hearing impaired children in the age group of 0 to 5 years.

I can hear you and I can watch your mouth move, and then I put together the sounds and the visual image, and I can understand the words as I integrate the two signals-Marlee Matlin

Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus—the sound of the voice that brings language sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of a man-Helen Keller

M Ahmad is a regular writer for this newspaper and can be reached at [email protected]

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