GRH audiology room equipped to screen newborn babies for hearing loss

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An Audiology ward was inaugurated recently at the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Department of the Rajaji Government Hospital here.

Head of the department, N. Dhinakaran, said the lab set up at a cost of ₹20 lakh was a “long dream and a milestone for the department”.

The dual-configuration audiology suite is equipped to perform brainstem evoked response (BERA) and pure-tone audiometry (PTA) hearing testing and treat 10 neonates and 20 adults per day, the doctor. “Accurate data on the percentage of hearing loss in each ear can be diagnosed using the testing machines that help treat patients better,” he noted.

“Any type of hearing loss, including newborn, acquired, and old-age hearing-impaired newborns, is screened in the lab,” he said.

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) testing is done in the lab for newborns the day they are born, which helps us start treatment right away. He also said few people are aware that when the problem is detected early, especially before the age of six, it is “100% curable”. “We recently had a parent of a five-year-old who ran from pillar to post before finally finding out about the setup here at GRH,” he said.

“Cochlear implant surgeries have been successfully performed on nearly 200 children since 2016 at GRH, of which 46 have been performed from January to date,” Dr. Dhinakaran said.

Once the surgery is complete, the children undergo therapy in the in-house auditory talk therapy lab for a year. “We recommend that they take about 100 classes a year until they can communicate comfortably,” he said.

The surgeries, which cost more in lakhs outside, are performed free of charge for children under the age of six under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme.

Dr Dhinakaran said hearing loss is diagnosed in two to three people per 1,000 people. “But the numbers have gone down over the years and various factors contribute to better maternity care etc.,” he said.

Additionally, he said parents should make sure children don’t suffer from a prolonged cold which can lead to hearing loss. “We strongly advise against the use of headphones which tend to cause internal injury and lead to hearing loss,” he said.

GRH Dean A. Rathinavel said the lab will soon be equipped to treat vestibular neuritis and brainstem lesions as well.

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