A Cochlear implant can enable even profoundly deaf people to hear, says expert.
At least two in one thousand children in Pakistan are profoundly deaf, which means they have zero sensitivity to any sound. Even this ratio is just an approximate as the government has neither updated data about people with such disability nor has it initiated any programme for the cure of such people. Dr Syed Akbar Abbas, a consultant ENT surgeon and faculty member at the Aga Khan University Hospital, gave a well researched and comprehensive talk on Saturday titled ‘End of Deafness: The Role of Cochlear Implants’ at The Circle – Caring for Children, a therapy centre for children suffering from autism, speech and language impairment and other learning deficiencies.
Dr Abbas, who is one of few certified cochlear implant surgeons in Pakistan, informed the gathering that even profoundly deaf people can hear – with the aid of a cochlear implant. This neuroprosthetic technology has been in use in the world since the late 1970s but Pakistan first used this in 1998. So far, over 3,000 people have received cochlear implants in the country, of whom children make up the majority. However, this cure is available only to the small affluent segment of society or to those who have access to some philanthropist, because of the fairly exorbitant cost - each implant costs around 10 to 15 thousand US dollars.
The audience included parents of children with disabilities, caregivers, audiologists, potential donors and concerned citizens. It was said that since the cochlear device is too expensive and a majority of the people in the country cannot afford it, 70 to 80 per cent of the surgeries performed here were sponsored by individuals, including the surgeons themselves and philanthropists, due to which there was a dire need for a state-run programme that could provide funds for cochlear implant. “If a child is diagnosed with deafness before the age of two, there are excellent chances of his full recovery but the chances keep reducing as the child gets older,” Dr Abbas explained in his presentation.
"The implants are the last resort to revive hearing sensation and are recommended only if every other option has failed. If a person has even a little bit of sense of sound, they are strictly recommended to stick to hearing aids.” The speaker took pains to explain that the Cochlear Implant was not an automatic panacea, but required a considerable amount of post-surgery work and was dependant on mapping and therapy following the implant. He spoke about some cases in which the implant was inserted in children but their parents did not bring their children to the speech rehab centres because either there were no such centres in their localities or they were simply unaware of the post-implant needs.
There were cases where some parents even wanted to remove the CI incorrectly thinking that it was no good. He said often deaf people are reluctant to undergo any such cure that can make them start hearing because they are at ease with their disability and have close bonds with other people having the same problem. They think if they start hearing - and speaking - they would no longer be part of the ‘deaf community’, so strong is the bond amongst them, Dr Abbas remarked. He informed at the event that only in the United States, the deaf community comprised seven million people and they received special grants from the state.
He said the public was not well aware of the cochlear implant and the federal and provincial governments seemed less bothered about the deaf people.