As a cricketer, I have always been appreciated for smashing records and winning blockbuster matches, but a true champion is the one who triumphantly overcomes life’s obstacles. During my 2015 visit to Mumbai and this year’s recent visits to Pune and Bengaluru, I had an opportunity to meet a few cochlear implant recipients, their families and medical specialists. The visits affirmed that hearing loss is becoming a huge global public health issue today and around five percent of the world’s population suffers some form of disabling hearing loss.
Personally, I can’t imagine cricket without sound – not hearing the satisfying sound of the ball hitting the wicket, the shouted appeals from the fielders and the roar of the crowd. And the sounds of life off the field: the jokes of my teammates, the sounds of an auto backfiring on a busy Bengaluru road, or family chatter at home. The little sounds we hear around us; the ones we usually take for granted; imagine being unable to hear those sounds. Nobody deserves to live in silence.
I have had my own brush with hearing loss: when my son, Preston, was five years old, he suffered a head injury, after which he had hearing loss in his right ear. It was devastating. I can’t even begin to explain what we went through at that time. We immediately sought medical help and fortunately he regained his hearing after 9–12 months. I’ve been blessed with a perfectly functioning body. Many of us take our hearing for granted; yet, so many boys, girls and adults aren’t that lucky. Becoming Cochlear’s Global Hearing Ambassador was a wise decision to make since I feel a close connection with the cause.
Through the ‘Sounds of Cricket’ campaign, we strive to raise awareness, not only about the impact of hearing impairment and its adverse effects on learning and development, but also about the possible solution through a cochlear implant. I want to help make sure that anyone who is living in this world can hear the sounds of everyday life, to hear the voices of loved ones, family and friends.
As a part of the campaign I have been visiting countries all around the world and it is overwhelming to see how lives – not just those of implant recipients, but of those who live around them – change. There are so many children and adults around the globe who suffer from hearing loss. To see what hearing implants do to these people, when they’re switched on for the first time, is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced.
It’s always inspiring to meet recipients, their families and hear their experiences. During my Bengaluru visit, I had the opportunity to meet a few of them. It was great to catch up with 13-year-old cricket enthusiast Prateek Prasanna who, also played the recipient cricket match and I could see his passion for the sport. Shanice Fernandes is another example of a bright, young girl whose life changed with the cochlear implants. Hima Srushti, an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer, has grown into a graceful artiste. These classic examples of how early identification of the impairment and intervention with the implants have changed the lives of these kids forever. I also had the enormous pleasure of witnessing 13-month-old Srushti’s bilateral implant switch on. It was a heartwarming experience. It was touching to see the little girl’s first reaction to the voices of her parents and the happiness in her parents’ hearts cannot be summed up in words. I look forward to visiting Srushti again and seeing her progress.
One thing I have learned over these many months is that the sooner the hearing implants are fitted, the greater the beneficial effects on speech, learning and overall intellectual development. In most developed countries around the world, Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) is compulsory for all newborns. Universal newborn hearing screening can help in early detection and remedial action. Making this mandatory in India must be our collective mission – yours and mine, dear readers.
I’m honoured to be Cochlear’s first Global Hearing Ambassador. Join me in my strife to learn more about hearing loss. Corrective measures like hearing implants can transform the lives of people with severe or total hearing loss, not to forget the lives of those around them. Everyone should check their hearing – and those of their families – with an online hearing check, or talk to their doctor or a hearing health professional about hearing loss.
Together we can help more people to hear all the wonderful sounds of life!
We at SocialStory are running a campaign on deafness, with the 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.