Plea to Make Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Mandatory in India
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Congenital hearing loss is among the most prevalent sensory impairments in India. As per the latest World Health Organization (WHO) survey, four in every 1000 babies are born with hearing loss. That means more than 100,000 babies are born each year with significant hearing loss. While the numbers are staggeringly grim, what pains me the most is that hearing impairment is a grossly neglected condition in India.
The age of 1-3 years is crucial for the development of a child’s communication abilities. Unfortunately, hearing loss is not usually detected until a child is 2-4 years of age, especially in the rural areas due to lack of awareness. As a result, a child with hearing loss is unable to grasp even the most basic speech and language abilities. She or he grows up in a silent world: isolated, unable to communicate or learn. Over a lifetime, the future opportunities for a hearing-impaired child are severely limited.
The WHO says that more than half of congenital deafness in children are treatable or can be managed with an assistive device and that only about 30% of congenital deafness is untreatable. However, to treat or manage hearing impairment effectively, early and accurate diagnosis is essential. This is where the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) can help.
The UNHS is a hearing screening programme that can detect hearing problems even in newborns. It is a two-stage objective screening that can diagnose hearing loss with accuracy. Thanks to the UNHS, hearing loss can be confirmed before the child is one month old, and if required, the child can start using assistive devices before it is 3 months old.
If the UNHS is made mandatory in India, the currently bleak future of thousands of hearing-impaired children can be completely transformed. I strongly urge everyone to sign this petition and do your bit to ensure that the future of hearing-impaired children is not compromised. Early intervention is the only way to ensure that a child will receive the specialized assistance it needs to overcome impairment, and lead a fulfilling life.
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