Brett Lee Urges the Government to Mandate Universal Newborn Hearing Screening
- Cricket Icon Brett Lee participates in Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH)
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 34 million children worldwide suffer from profound hearing loss. Four in every 1,000 babies born in India suffer from severe to profound hearing loss
- According to the 2011 Census, at least 35,000 people in New Delhi suffer from profound hearing impairment. That number may have increased dramatically.
Cricket legend and Cochlear’s Global Hearing Ambassador, Brett Lee was in the city on Wednesday to raise awareness about Universal New-born Hearing Screening (UNHS) at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, and the need for early screening and intervention for children with profound hearing loss. Leading surgeons and experts from the city – Dr. Shalabh Sharma (ENT Consultant Surgeon, SGRH), and Ms. Asha Agarwal (Cochlear implant consultant) joined him to talk about hearing related issues in New Delhi.
Speaking at a media briefing, Brett Lee said “I want to use this platform to draw attention to the growing incidence of profound hearing loss, because I strongly believe that everybody deserves to hear the sounds of life. No one in this world deserves to live in silence. People should know that hearing loss is treatable and that it should not prevent a person from leading an active, full life. Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) can help address these issues early in life.”
According to the WHO, over 5 per cent of the world’s population – or over 466 million people in the world – suffer from profound hearing loss. 34 million of those are children. If the right measures are not undertaken then by 2050, over 900 million people will have profound hearing loss. Yet, most people are unaware of the advanced treatment options available.
Dr. Shalabh Sharma, ENT Consultant Surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram hospital, commented “It is time to act now to prevent a further rise in the number of people with profound hearing loss, and ensure people with hearing loss can access the services and technologies they require. Although the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness (NPPCD) was launched by the government in 2006, implementation gaps remain. A more targeted protocol that encompasses all causes of hearing loss needs to be formulated. to begin with, mandating UNHS must be a priority.”
Kerala is the first state in the country to provide hearing screening for children in the 66 government maternity centres. The Kerala Social Security Mission developed software for real time data of the new-borns screened can be recorded and shared with other institutions such as District Early Intervention Centres (DEICs) and medical colleges to help regular follow ups and to be able to provide advanced services.
Talking about his involvement with this cause Brett Lee said, “I am very proud of what I am doing with Cochlear – raising public awareness on a critical issue that impacts millions of lives. Like we are doing here, we have a lot to do in educating people on profound hearing loss. I have travelled and met hundreds of Cochlear implant recipients in cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chandigarh, Kochi, Trivandrum, Kozhikode, and Guwahati over the last three years. I see Kerala’s push for universal newborn hearing screening as an outstanding example. We should attempt to make UNHS mandatory nationwide.”
A recent survey released by Cochlear India along with First Moms Club found that most mothers (84.1%) believed that children should be tested for hearing loss at birth, but few (38.9%) actually got it done.
“With current technological advancement, it hardly takes five minutes to get the UNHS test done,” says Ms Asha Agarwal, Cochlear implant consultant. “The sooner a child is screened for hearing, the sooner viable treatment becomes possible if necessary. Parents may not be able to identify hearing loss in their children, which is why having new-born hearing screening becomes crucial. It enables early intervention, so that the child is not left behind when it comes to learning and development.”