Volume 3 Issue 22 - November 15, 2005

President urges scientists, doctors to create an affordable cochlear implant

D.N.I.S. News Network – President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has urged the community of scientists, engineers and doctors to take up the challenge of bringing out a indigeneous cochlear implant device-- which can restore hearing in people with profound hearing impairment-- that would cost less than Rs. 100,000, in the coming two years.

The President stated this during the inaugural speech at the 3rd Cochlear Implant Group of India. He was spoke on the theme of “The Mission: Hearing and Speech for All”.

Detailing the progress in this direction, he said: “Some development activity has been initiated to design, develop and manufacture low cost cochlear implants in the country. This should be taken up in a mission mode by at least two groups and we should aim at bringing out the basic cochlear implant without frills. For example, I understand that the number of electrodes needed for realising reasonable audibility is just seven whereas manufacturers use ten, sixteen and twenty two. Electro Physiologists for ears confirm that the audibility improvement beyond seven electrodes is very marginal and the designers should keep this in mind.

I am sure the scientists, engineers, and the medical community assembled here will be able to take this challenge and bring out a cochlear implant within the next two years costing less than Rs. 100,000. In this direction, I appreciate the initiative taken by D.R.D.O. We must succeed in this development, so that we can offer this product to many needy patients, spread in different parts of the world.”

While efforts are made to this end, he added, the Government can consider waiving the custom duty and sales tax levied on the import of cochlear implant in the country. This will substantially reduce the cost of cochlear implant and the operation and make it affordable to certain class of people in the interim period while the indigenous development is in progress.

In his style characteristic of an astute teacher, the President explained how the cochlear implant restores hearing in a person with profound disability. He said: “When the child doesn't have the hearing capacity it leads to speech impairment. Cochlear implant coupled with computer aided training helps individuals with hearing and speech impairment to regain near normal hearing/speaking capabilities. Basically it is bypassing the damaged inner ear portion by replacing its functions with an electronic system having external mike, speech processing circuit, transmitter and a receiver.

The receiver is implanted below the ear. The receiver has an electrode, which will be inserted into the cochlear portion of the ear. Speech processor processes the input audio signals and converts them into electrical signals in various channels. The transmitter transmits these signals to the implant's multi-channel electrode, which terminates in various points of the cochlear.”

As per recent statistics number of people with profound hearing disability in India is about one million. In addition, there are over 1.2 million people with severe hearing disability, 0.9 million people with moderate hearing disability and 7.1 million people with very mild hearing disability.

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