According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hearing loss is the most widespread sensory loss in humans today. But, despite these shocking numbers, most people are unaware of its effects and the treatment options that are available. The Organization defines Hearing loss as –
As sensory deficit that leads to being partially or completely unstable to hear sound in one or both ears. Delay in the identification and treatment of any native auditory impairment can profoundly affect quality of life in terms of linguistic exchange, social and emotional development, education and employment prospects.
In India alone, four in 1,000 children suffer from severe to profound hearing loss. Over 63 million people (6.3 percent) are diagnosed with significant hearing impairment.
Globally, around 360 million people i.e., five percent of the world’s population suffers from hearing loss. Out of this, nine percent, or 32 million, are children below the age of 15 years. And the remaining 91 percent, that is 360 million adults, suffer from the loss.
The people with hearing impairments are often individuals who are cast aside by the society. There are myths surrounding them which makes the situation worse. For example, it is often believed that children born to the deaf are deaf, which is not true. Ninety percent of children born to deaf adults can hear normally. The rest can be treated permanently. Children of Deaf Adults (CODA) are often exceptionally sharp due to ease with which they navigate the world of the deaf and the hearing alike.
However, due to the social and cultural rejection the deaf face in our society, they continue to drift into their world of quiet isolation and become vulnerable to mental breakdown. Hearing disability, especially among children is generally accompanied with muteness and slow mental growth.
Though hearing loss affects all the age groups, up to five of every 1,000 infants are born with or develop the disability at an early childhood. One out of every three people over 65 years are affected from hearing loss. According to a data released by WHO, out of the 32 million children who suffer from hearing loss, 60 percent are preventable cases.
We propose compulsory screening for deafness to be made mandatory at childbirth. Kerala is already doing it. Tamil Nadu is working towards it. Most of the developed world along with many developing countries are screening their newborns for deafness and taking corrective and preventive measures to protect these children. With India’s demographic dividend highly skewed towards the younger populace, protecting our children from the quiet isolation and social rejection deafness is generally accompanied with is both important and urgent.
We at SocialStory are running a month-long campaign on deafness, with an objective to push the government to bring in policy for compulsory screening for deafness at childbirth in India. Please sign this petition and help spread the word.