Nearly a million children in India suffering from serious hearing problems could have been benefited by cochlear implants, but the prohibitive cost of such surgery is keeping them away, health experts said Saturday.
"Nearly 10 million people in India suffer some kind of hearing problems and about a million are children and they need to undergo cochlear implant surgery. But the high cost of the device is proving a hindrance," said Vice Admiral V.K. Singh, director general of Armed Forces Medical Services.
The surgery entails implanting a small electronic device inside the ear while a magnetic microprocessor is placed outside the ear to amplify external sounds, digitize them and send radio signals to the deaf person's ear to enable them to listen.
"The general public in India cannot afford such an implant costing about Rs.600,000. What we need is low cost implants, awareness and parental support for those affected by such problems," Singh said at a function of Cochlear, the Australian manufacturer.
R.C. Deka, head of the department of ENT (ear, nose and throat) and dean of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said: "We have conducted 150 such implants, including 110 children, at subsidized cost."
"The device from the Australian company Cochlear is the most advanced and reliable product and occupies nearly 85 percent of the Indian market. Though its cost is a little high, yet it is cheaper than in other countries," said A.K. Lahiri, senior professor at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, at the function to mark the 1,000th cochlear implant surgery using the Australian device.
Ash Adarkar, area manager south Asia of the Australian company, told IANS: "The machine is labor and time -intensive. It takes nearly six weeks to manufacture one device. Though the international cost is over Rs.750,000, we are selling the device in India for Rs.512,000."
S.S. Panwar, head of ENT and Neuro-Otology of the Army Research and Referral Hospital here, said: "Less than 1,300 cochlear implant surgeries have been done in India so far and the Australian device was used in 1,000 cases."