Brett Lee lauds Ker’s efforts on universal newborn hearing screening

Kochi: Former Australia cricketer Brett Lee on Saturday lauded Kerala’s efforts to push for universal newborn hearing screening and said it should be mandatory in all hospitals in the state.

Lee, who is the global ambassador of Cochlear, a global leader in implantable hearing solutions, visited Kerala to amplify and continue conversations about universal newborn hearing screening, with an intention it should be made mandatory across all hospitals in the state. Kerala is the first state in the country to provide hearing screening in all government centres.

Lee said Kerala had made tremendous progress in the last four years and the efforts must be lauded.

“There are 61 delivery points in the state’s government maternity centres and all the centres have been equipped with hearing screeners,” the former Aussie fast bowler told reporters here.

“Kerala’s endeavours to push for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening is an outstanding example of trailblazing leadership in introducing such an important healthcare initiative in India,” he added.

He said the average number of newborn babies screened for hearing loss in government set up is 1 lakh per year.

“We hope to see a similar success rate in private hospitals. We must and will strive together to complete the last mile so that no child will have to live in silence,” Lee said.

According to World Health Organisation, hearing loss affects more than 5 per cent of the world’s population or over 466 million people in the world suffer from disabling hearing loss and thirty-four million of these people are children. If relevant measures are not undertaken, over 900 million people will have severe hearing loss by 2050, it said.

Kerala has more than 1.05 lakh people suffering from severe hearing impairment. Sreehari Madhavankutty Nair, State Nodal Officer (Child Health), National Health Mission-Kerala, said measures need to be undertaken to ensure that every child born in the state is screened for hearing loss.

“There is evidence that before the baby reaches six months – if intervention and support is provided along with early diagnosis, parental adjustment is improved and the child’s language development gets better,” he added.

Nair said with the introduction of the Kathoram project in 2017, the screening has been elevated to a life cycle approach in hearing disability management and this project will impact lives of people identified with hearing loss in a positive way.

Sachidananda Kamath, paediatrician and former President of Central Indian Academy of Pediatrics (CIAP) said, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Cochin Branch was the first organisation to start a comprehensive hearing screening program in 2003 for all the newborns in Kochi.

The programme was further expanded as the ‘Hearing Friendly Ernakulam District’ in 2014 aiming to reach all the hospitals in the district. Till April 2019, of the 1,70,168 newborns that were screened, 4,009 babies were detected to have hearing deficit, he said.