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6 months ago
Cochlear implants in children help to deal with hearing loss 

In children loss of hearing or even speech impairment often goes underreported. These problems are usually identified and reported by parents when the child is three or four years old. Although a prenatal check-up can help mothers know about their baby’s development in the womb and point out these conditions at an early stage, a lot of cases go unnoticed affecting the lives of little children who are in need of medical attention. Hearing loss in children needs attention, as this could affect one’s speech development. If a child doesn’t hear one talk he will never know how to make use of words.

This is why when it comes to hearing loss it needs to be diagnosed early; it calls for early rehabilitation so the child can acquire speech development which should happen by the age of five. If hearing loss goes unnoticed it will lead to speech impairment too. As a parent, if you notice that your child is not paying attention to your verbal cues it is necessary to take your kid to an ENT specialist to check on the hearing status. If the hearing loss in kids is detected early an effective treatment plan can be drafted. One way to treat hearing loss in children is by undergoing a cochlear transplant.

Here Dr K K Handa, Chairman, Department of ENT and Head Neck Surgery, Medanta- The Medicity, Gurgaon, India talks to us how cochlear implants help to deal with hearing loss in kids.

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that can be used for treating children up to the age of seven diagnosed with severe to profound sensorineural deafness since birth. Such children are called prelingually deaf i.e. they are deaf before the age of speech acquisition. A cochlear implant can also be done for adults who suffer from hearing loss either accidentally, as a side effect of some drug or because of some disease. Generally, such patients have the ability to speak and are called post-lingual deaf.

How is a cochlear implant done?

This cochlear machine is surgically implanted and has two main parts – a processor that is situated behind the ear of the recipient and a receiver device that is surgically implanted under the skin of the patient near his ear. The implant is switched on after two weeks of surgery. A lot of parents are hesitant to get the device implanted because they fear it might interfere with their day-to-day life. However contrary to this belief, although the receiver is noticeable, it does not get in the way of everyday life and is as good as hearing naturally.  Parents are apprehensive that small children will not wear or break the external component. However, as children start hearing after putting on this device they always like to wear the device.

Do patents willingly go for this kind of treatment?

Some parents are apprehensive about the implant surgery as they think it is a critical process. But in reality, cochlear implant surgery is a relatively simple yet specialised microscopic surgery which is being done in few specialised centres. In the case of children who are born with complete hearing loss, the activation of the implant two weeks after surgery gives them their first-time experience with the sensation of sound. The most important aspect post surgery is auditory-verbal therapy. This helps them acquire meaningful speech once they start hearing. For this, a speech therapist (AVT specialist) is required. The commitment of parents plays an important role in auditory verbal training.

Where can one get a cochlear implant done?

A hospital or centre with good cochlear implant programme requires not only a  good surgeon and infrastructure for doing implants but also a good post-surgery auditory-verbal rehabilitation set. It is often seen that patients are confused between a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. While the former simply amplify sounds for those who suffer from partial hearing loss, cochlear implants are more complex and work directly with the auditory nerve and the brain. Cochlear implant electronically stimulates the cochlear nerve and the signal is passed on to the brain. The processor (the part that sits behind the ear) of cochlear implant looks similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid, but it is actually a tiny computer that changes the sound to electrical signals. Cochlear implants are recommended for patients with severe to profound hearing loss; others with a lesser amount of hearing loss are given hearing aids.

Image source: Shutterstock

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