We often treat our sense of hearing or seeing as taken for granted, seldom realizing what its absence could mean. Being differently abled is not easy. However, people have time and again proved that the human spirit is supreme and a resolute mind can overcome any bodily handicap.
As March is World Hearing Month Cochlear Medical Device Company India Pvt Ltd™ contacted me to talk to one of their recipients and share the story for their #HearingMatters Campaign. I met an eight year old school going child. This is her inspiring narrative. It was a hot summer evening when I walked into her home. I was greeted by a confident girl who shook my hand and introduced herself as Samara. She had a sunny disposition and smiled pleasantly. Her mother and older sister were also at home and the environment was comfortable with all of them being open.
Since Samara’s birth, her mother had an inkling that all was not well with her baby. Samara used to sleep through long stretches even with their noisy washing machine at work. When the whole building used to complain about the loud sounds in neighbourhood, this girl would never react. She would rarely cry and very infrequently respond. Things like the toy keyboard didn’t interest her even though children are drawn at an early age to sounds. At eleven months, Samara’s mother consulted the paediatrician who immediately recommended a hearing test. The tests suggested that Samara could not hear in both her ears and was hearing impaired. A second opinion confirmed this. It was an unimaginable blow to the family. In this case, getting to know that their 11 month old child is hearing impaired was a parents’ worst nightmare.
Samara’s parents did not despair. They consulted several doctors and understood that corrective action could be taken since the disability was detected early. The option they were most inclined towards was hearing implants. Despite their modest means, they were able to collect sufficient funds to make this possible. At 15 months, baby Samara underwent a simultaneous bilateral surgery for both ears through Cochlear. The surgeon, surgery and the product contribute partially to success and the remaining is attributable to therapy. They religiously took her for post-surgery therapy sessions. In addition, Samara’s parents spent every waking moment talking to her, showing her, teaching her, reading to her. From buying vegetables to driving around, every experience was designed to stimulate signals to her brain and get her to recognize sounds and articulate them. Intense rounds of continuous therapy finally paid off when Samara started speaking at the age of 2 years similar to other children around her.
Today, Samara is an amiable girl with a love for outdoors. She swims, skates and pursues craft activities and leads a normal life. Her mother has created hairbands with a small pocket to place the sound processors to avoid any awkwardness for Samara in a social setting. Samara in turn has risen to the challenge and never been bothered by this. Her conversation exudes a sense of optimism and hope.
As per WHO, disabling hearing loss is on the rise and is expected to reach over 900 million people by 2050. The key reasons for this may be growing global population and increasing proportion of older people. However, there are some ways to prevent it – by limiting exposure to loud sounds, taking extra care during ear and other infections and avoiding medicines which can lead to such side effects.
While some symptoms of hearing loss are evident, there are a few that we may need to watch out for –
- If a child has –
- Delayed or improper speech development
- Constant discharge, pain or blockage of ear
- If an adult has –
- A ringing sensation in the ear
- Tendency to speak loudly
Cochlear’s stated mission is to transform the way people understand and treat hearing loss. As a part of this, it wants to create awareness and encourage parents towards choosing early detection of hearing loss to enable corrective actions at the paediatric stage itself. Hearing Loss unfortunately, cannot be detected during pregnancy but can be identified soon after birth. Cochlear implants are recommended for those with severe or profound hearing loss i.e. 50% or more. Cochlear implants are as good as getting new ears. While Samara opted for Nucleus® 5 that was the most updated sound processor then; now the Kanso® and Nucleus® 6 versions are also available with smart sound IQ. You can read more about these products by visiting this link – https://www.cochlear.com/in/home/discover
Samara’s mother is grateful to be associated with the Cochlear family here in India. Their post-surgery support and other related guidance was very good and beneficial. While it was heart breaking to see their child go through this, Samara’s mother believes “God gives such challenges to only those who he feels can handle them”.
It is said, character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller, the famous American author and political activist and the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree famously said, “It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.” Samara and her parents exemplify these sentiments in real life and are an inspiration to others.
This article has been sponsored by Cochlear India.