Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS): Black Magic Does Not Cure Hearing Loss: Brett Lee

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Former Australian cricketer Brett Lee is a strong health advocate, promoting the importance of universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) in hospitals in Karnataka. Over the past five years, Brett has traveled to various cities promoting the importance of timely hearing screening for newborns. The cricketer, who is also Cochlear’s global hearing ambassador, tells us about his journey …

Tell us about your health initiatives

I’ve always been interested in helping people and when you get the chance to play cricket internationally, it puts you in a position to do things and make a change, if you choose to do so. I chose hearing loss awareness because it is close to my heart. I want to make people more aware of it and remove the stigma associated with it. I hate deaf-mute terms. Most people don’t have the ability to learn or hear, and if they can’t hear, then they can’t learn.

How has the progress been?

Its been good. The government of Karnataka has provided assistance with what we are trying to achieve, in terms of awareness and funding. The government has shown its commitment to the cause.

In a country where cricket is practiced as a religion, do you think that athletes should use this reach to help change the health space?

It is an individual thing; it would be great if they did, but if you lack passion, the effort in that direction will not be genuine. I chose hearing loss but it is a small part of human health. There are many issues that need help and it would be great if people who have reached reach use it to effect positive change.

How is hearing loss awareness in Bangalore?

This is good, but we need to remind people what cochlear implants can do and how timely intervention and screening can help a child lead healthy lives. Kerala is screening children for hearing loss at 66 government maternity hospitals. If Kerala can, then any other state can.

How did the parents react?

Often times parents say they wish they had known sooner; not left to black magic or to God; and made more nuanced choices. Unfortunately, there is a belief that hearing impairments will heal naturally or that black magic could work. I’m not against any belief, but it’s not something that will change overnight. By the time some get help, it is too late and they lose the opportunity to live in a normal society.


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