Loss of hearing is becoming a national problem and according to the World Health Organization, about 6.3% of the country’s population or 63 million Indians are currently subject to hearing loss. The National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) concludes that presently 291 Indians / 1 lakh of the Indian population are sufferers of acute hearing loss, with the larger group of sufferers being children in the 0 — 14 years age group. This has led to a situation where deafness treatment in India needs to be undertaken on a war footing as the present crisis is leading to substantial losses in the country’s overall productivity. In percentage terms, 4% of the urban population is hearing impaired while 11% of the rural and slum population suffers from hearing impairment.
The best ENT specialist in India, therefore, has a pivotal role to play to not only arrest but mitigate this terrible situation as soon as possible. The entire process of hearing loss treatment in India will, therefore, require cautious measures to prevent, screen, counsel and treat both conductive and sensorineural deafness. Steps taken to cure deafness in India is fortunately at par with global standards. Moreover, this has been given further impetus by the Indian government, which launched its National Deafness Program to enhance treatment facilities for hearing loss a few years ago. The program is being aided and monitored by the IAO or Indian Association of Otolargyngologists, which is taking an active part in not only creating an awareness about loss of hearing among the Indian masses but is also taking active steps to alleviate the problem.
The program has kept in view that 50% patients suffer from sensorineural deafness or congenital deafness as against 30% of the congenitally deaf who also suffer from syndromic deafness. It also keeps on its agenda the prevention and treatment of nearly 400 known syndromes and diseases of the ear, nose & throat. The process of treating the hearing impaired in India fundamentally depends on the problem’s root cause. For example, earwax build-up often leads to blockage of the Eustachian Tube and leads to hearing loss. In such cases, medication and suction are resorted to remove the ear wax and to restore normal hearing. Deafness of the temporary type caused by bacterial infections are taken care of through appropriate antibiotics and surgery is usually done to remove intra-aural fluid, repair or replace ruptured tympanic membranes, or to correct diseases of the cochlea and stapes, also known as the hearing bones.
The principal area of focus is, however, the treatment of deafness caused by damages in the inner ear, which is unfortunately and usually permanent. Indian otolargyngologists treat these conditions through high-powered, state-of-the-art hearing aids which comprise a battery, microphone, amplifier and loudspeaker for increasing sound volumes so that the patient can hear surrounding sounds including those of road traffic noises as also normal human conversation. These aids are usually small and fit snugly inside the ear. Indian surgeons are also prescribing digital hearing aids with built-in and programmable micro computers that are tunable to different environments. These may fit behind-the-ear or be open even. Other variations include Receiver in-the-ear (RITE), In-the-canal (ITC), In-the-ear (ITE), Body-worn (BW ), Completely in-the-canal (CIC ) as also the BiCROS / CROS types.