For the young couple Asha and Navin (names changed to protect privacy), little Sasha’s singing isn’t just another proud parent’s joy- it is the culmination of a journey that seemed like a desperate gamble.
When she was born profoundly deaf, the young parents were shattered. How could this happen to them? What had they done wrong? The family was never exposed to this handicap that was invisible but had profound influence on the life of a child, affecting her ability to have a good education, career and even marriage.
After visiting countless specialists and spending a lot of time and money, with nothing but despair gained, they heard about a clinic in Calicut. After visiting Dr. Manoj’s ENT Super Specialty Institute and Research Center, they learnt about an amazing technology that was bringing hope and hearing to children like their daughter. Audiologists Sasidharan P Nair and Shabeena Backer, both trained at the Bionic ear Institute at Melbourne Australia, and at the Medel Laboratories at Wurzburg, Austria along with Dr. Manoj, who was the State’s first ENT surgeon to perform a Cochlear implant, lent a patient ear to their problems.
This was a unique experience in itself. The team, who is among the three most experienced cochlear implant teams in India, described to them how Sasha was born with defective hair cells of the inner ear or the cochlea-which was why she could not hear speech sounds through the hearing aid, even if it was the best in the market today. And as she was not developing normal speech and language even with intensive speech therapy, she had to have a surgery where a tiny electronic device would bypass the damaged hair cells and provide good hearing.
The young couple was genuinely concerned- would the surgery be safe? Would the implant perform well in years to come? How long would she take to recover? Dr. Manoj’s team, instead of explaining all this medical information to them, which might have been bewildering, directed them to the speech therapy rooms where many young implanted children were being initiated into the wonderful world of hearing. The parents of those children told them what they wanted so desperately to hear. They were told that the surgery was safe, and in Dr. Manoj’s experienced hands, would take only a little over an hour. The children leave hospital the very next day, are happily playing soon after. They also learnt that the implants used at Dr. Manoj’s ENT Institute were among the safest in the world today, with over 99% reliability in the last 20 years.
They also learnt that Dr. Manoj, from the training that he had received at the Bionic ear Institute at Melbourne, Australia, and from courses held all around the world, had innovated new techniques like the minimally invasive surgery and the new “D ” well that placed the implant in a deep pocket, preventing damage to the implant from falls and bumps that young children are so prone to. They also learnt that the team had also the largest proportion of very young children implanted in India and had one of the best safety records in the world today.
After a lot of time was spent on evaluations and counseling, the scans were ordered and little Sasha was posted for surgery. After an uneventful post operative period, just as they had hoped, the child was “switched on at three weeks when the incision was almost invisible. The first switch on was an experience that the parents would never forget. Their daughter first screamed when she heard words for the first time and both of them burst out in tears. Their final moment of truth had arrived. She could finally hear!
Soon Ms. Daniya and her team of experienced speech therapists took over and the child always found the weekly sessions enjoyable. Ms. Daniya explained to the parents that they were the ones who had to train their child to speak, just as millions of parents do to their “hearing” children. So in most advanced countries daily therapy sessions were never done. For hearing impaired children with no cochlear implants, this was sometimes necessary, but cochlear implants opened up a whole new world of hearing for these children so that they begin learning to speak.
Today, Sasha, thanks to an amazing new technology, is talking and behaving just as any “normal” child would do, just as most young children implanted at Dr. Manoj’s ENT Institute. The parents are proud of their young child and look back often fondly at the decision that they made some time back that changed their lives forever.