Supply of cochlear implants limited because of illegal links, say surgeons

Several ear-nose-throat (ENT) surgeons have asked the government to act against an alleged connection between a group of surgeons and suppliers of cochlear implants. Between them they are restricting the availability of these devices used in the treatment of deafness.

They have separate letters to the Prime Minister's Office saying that this group is deciding who performs cochlear implant surgeries in the country.

The surgeons say their complaints are based on concerns that some surgeons from the Cochlear Implant Group of India (CIGI) are acting together to restrict supplies of hearing aid. This leaves other surgeons and patients without these implants.

They say that the CIGI has restricted access to cochlear implants by imposing unrealistic and unscientific conditions for ENT surgeons to handle cochlear implants and by insisting that only people approved by companies should train surgeons for the implants.

Cochlear implants are small electronic devices that provide a sense of sound to the profoundly deaf by directly stimulating the auditory nerve.

It's market price ranges from Rs 5.5 lakh to around Rs 15 lakh. Around one lakh children are born deaf every year in India but doctors say less than 5,000 procedures are carried out, mainly because the implants are expensive.

Also the cost of procedure is decided by a select group of ENT surgeons, and is very high.

The surgeons are now hoping that government intervention can not only help end this racket but also make the procedures more affordable and accessible for patients.

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