On the face of it, hearing impairment may sound like a disability that can be easily dismissed. Take a closer look and the statistics are staggering. Over 360 million people in the world suffer from disabling hearing loss and the impairment among children is increasing at around 60%. Simply put, 5.3% of the world population has disabling hearing loss of which 32 million are children, according to WHO estimates.
In India alone, 63 million people suffer from significant auditory loss and that includes around 50 lakh children. Surveys have estimated hearing loss to be the third leading cause of chronic disability, following arthritis and hypertension.
|Audiologist & Speech Therapist Devangi Dalal with kids at the JOSH Foundation's inter-school dance competition for the hearing impaired|
World Hearing Day is held on March 3 each year to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and to emphasize on ear and hearing care the world over. This year, with the theme 'Hear the future', World Hearing Day draws attention to the anticipated increase of people with hearing loss in the coming decades and preventive strategies to stem the rise and ensure rehabilitation services and communication tools are in place. This makes the relevance of World Hearing Day the need of the hour.
"In most cases, children who struggle to hear can be helped with the correct hearing aid. We need to understand that hearing disability can be a nowned speech impediment resulting in the child being a socially isolated underachiever, something that can be prevented/controlled", says Audiologist, Speech therapist and Author Devangi Dalal, the recipient of Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).
Dalal has dedicated her career to improving the quality of life of hearing impaired children of India for the last two and a half decades, and also provides free hearing services that is new digital hearing aids to hearing impaired children, enabling them to speak and attend normal schools. Dalal believes that "a hearing handicap is no longer a handicap", and is currently working at providing hearing impaired children in India the same privileges as the hearing impaired children in Europe and the United States through her foundation, Juvenile Organisation of Speech and Hearing (JOSH), whose purpose is to educate and empower hearing impaired children.
"Through JOSH, we organise programmes to empower the children, be it entertainment programmes were they perform to music, or self development or counseling sessions. We also personally fit children with hearing devices free of cost enabling them to lead normal lives. So far, over 750 children have benefited but there is a need to bring about a movement that will be a road map to independence for children with hearing impairment.”
Dalal points out that there is a need to create awareness in society about early detection of hearing disability and usage of proper hearing aids as hearing impaired children can then be integrated into normal schools.
“Proper neo-natal screening equipment need to be in place,” she adds, stating that there is a need to educate and counsel parents and children and provide the latest technology available to them.
“We also need to work on educational and job opportunities of the hearing impaired. It is then that the children will speak and not use gestural language for communication as if only they could hear with proper diagnosis, proper digital hearing and proper rehabilitation, they are as normal as any of their compatriots. Every successful child fitted with the right hearing devices is a step in that direction", urges Dalal asking each citizen to join her in this mission by lending their ears this World Hearing Day, and be the change.