Hearing problems? What you can do
The International Week of the Deaf is observed from 24 to 30 September every year. This year’s theme is Sign Bilingualism is a Human Right! In India, it’s estimated that 3 in 10 people over age 60, 1 in 6 in the age group 41-59 and 1 in 14 between 29-40 already have hearing loss. Also, it is estimated that 3 in 1000 infants are born with severe to profound hearing loss.
Dr. G.Krishnakumar, Audiologist and Clinic Director of Rajan Speech and Hearing Centre, specialises in speech language pathology. The expert, who is a life member of the Indian Speech and Hearing Association and Rehabilitation Council of India, takes on questions ranging from common hearing problems to technological advancements in the field.
Are hearing problems on the rise? What is the general incidence of hearing loss?
I have been practicing for the last 17 years and I feel that hearing related problems are definitely on the rise. This can be directly contributed to the new age lifestyle gadgets coupled with the ageing factor. Today, every sixth person worldwide has hearing loss. By 2015, an estimated 1.1 billion will be affected with hearing loss of varying degrees.
What are the common hearing problems that you come across?
We diagnose different types of hearing problems. The most common is the age-related followed by noise-induced hearing loss. We see a lot of children with varying degrees of hearing loss. But, with properly fitted hearing instruments, at least 90% of the people with hearing loss can improve their communication skills.
Are people taking advantage of technological advancements?
No. The social stigma associated with hearing loss is quite high and puts off the patients in most of the cases. We are trying to consistently create awareness by conducting free checkup camps in association with several NGOs.
We have taken the help of several celebrities to create awareness about hearing-related issues. The recent launch of our Infant Screening Programme by noted theatre personality Dr.Girish Karnad was in this direction.
With advancements in technology how are the concerns addressed?
If someone has been putting off getting help for the hearing problem because he/she is self-conscious then we have the invisible canal hearing aids that address this barrier.
Are the latest hearing aids completely invisible?
It is custom fit to the ear’s unique anatomy and fits inside the second bend of the ear canal. It is a small computer that experts custom match to the specific hearing needs identified during the hearing assessment. Invisible-in-the-canal technology is suitable for 70% of hearing loss sufferers. Other usual hearing aids (BTE, ITC or CIC) sit behind the ear or in the visible part of your ear canal.
Dr.Krishnakumar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org