Former pacer says newborn hearing screening must be made mandatory
Former Australian cricketer Brett Lee has said that he dreams of Kerala becoming the first State to make Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) mandatory.
“UNHS is mandatory in Australia. In Kerala, we are getting to that level and it has to be extended to the private sector,” remarked Mr. Lee while interacting with students of the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) on its campus here.
The former international fast bowler, who is the Global Hearing Ambassador of hearing aid manufacturer Cochlear, was the chief guest at the event organised for creating awareness on the necessity of conducting hearing screening on newborn babies by NISH, in collaboration with Kerala Social Security Mission (KSSM) and Cochlear.
To a query on the affordability of cochlear implantation, Mr. Lee said the government could provide assistance in the form of funds and work closely with hospitals for follow-up treatment. “Cost should not come in the way of cochlear implantation.”
Striking an emotional note, Mr. Lee also shared his agony when his five-year-old son suffered a traumatic injury as a result of landing his head on the floor, leading to hearing loss.
“He suffered hearing loss. I was mortified and upset. Those days, he had to move from the back row of the class to the front. Luckily for him, his nerve became all right after some time,” he recalled, adding such an experience had prompted him to associate with an initiative that changes the lives of many children.
“Kerala has made significant progress from my last visit in 2017 and this must be applauded. With 66 government maternity centres across the State that launched hearing screening for newborns, Kerala’s endeavours to push for UNHS is an outstanding example of trailblazing leadership in introducing such an important healthcare initiative in India.
“Today 86 out of 100 babies born are screened for hearing loss. We must and will strive together to complete the last mile,” he said.
K.G. Satheesh Kumar, Executive Director, NISH, said UNHS had helped to identify hearing impairment at an early age. “It helps children with deafness to make significant progress to acquire spoken language. Kerala is the first State to provide hearing screening for children in all government centres,” he said.
Mohammed Asheel, Executive Director, KSSM, and Director, National Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Thrissur, said, “We plan to make UNHS mandatory for birth certificate and for admissions to schools. We are hoping to have full participation from the private sector as well.”
Earlier, Mr. Lee planted a tree, christened ‘Speaking Tree,’ on the NISH campus.