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Kalam Appeals to Eradicate Hearing Disability

New Delhi: There are one million Indians with profound hearing disabilities and President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam today made an appeal to country’s medical community and specialists to intensify their drive to reduce the number of hearing disability cases. //

President Kalam was addressing the 3rd Cochlear Implant Group of India Conference in Delhi. He said: There are over 1.2 million people with severe hearing disability, 0.9 million people with moderate hearing disability and 7.1 million people with very mild hearing disability. The medical community, social institutions and corporate houses have the task of restoring the disability of nearly 10 million people with the support of the Government, He added that ENT specialists were doing their bit but efforts have to be intensified to include remote areas.

Recounting his own experience at a hospital in Coimbatore he had realized that technological intervention was possible for restoring hearing to the deaf and the dumb.

I saw four-year-old deaf and dumb children. After one of month of implanting and training they spoke out few words legibly. After six months of computer-aided training, I have seen the children speaking normally. This touching scene moved me. I felt that I have to work to bring the cost of cochlear implant down, so that thousands and thousands of children in India and abroad can afford to have this device and lead a normal life, Kalam said.

The President added: Hearing and speech are the two important faculties given by the Almighty to the mankind among many others. The restoration of these faculties to the people, who do not possess, is indeed a great service to the God.

Kalam said that India had made great strides in cochlear implant procedures since 1995 and the latest cochlear implant technology, contour advance, recently introduced in India, was a significant achievement, and specialists now needed to undertake further research to design and produce cochlea r implants that needed minimum invasive procedures for fitment.

In the beginning, there used to be five or ten cases treated each year. Today, due to the awareness created by various institutions we are able to fit 150 implants a year. I am happy to know that among the hundred and fifty fitted, Army hospitals account for nearly 70. In the last one-decade we have treated nearly 750 cases in all. That means we are able to reach only 0.075 percent of the affected population in the country, Kalam said.

In the end the President concluded by saying that there were three challenges that today faced the medical community for removing profound hearing disabilities.

* One is a production of a cost effective cochlear implant,

* Second is less invasiveness of the surgical procedure and

* Third is kindhearted doctors who implants and train the patients further.

Some development activity has been initiated to design, develop and manufacture low cost cochlear implants in the country. I am sure the scientists, engineers, and the medical community assembled here will be able to take this challenge and bring out a cochlear implant within the next two years costing less than Rs.1 lakh, Kalam said, adding that defect free hearing and speech for all should be our national mission.

President Kalam very few people are aware has been involved in the indigenous development of a cochlear implant to benefit children with profound sensory, neural and hearing loss, using electronics and IT at a nominal cost and has done pioneering work in the field.

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