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Rajasthan health centres to screen newborns for hearing loss with Sohum

September 7, 2018

Early screening is critical when it comes to reducing or reversing the damage caused by hearing loss. So, the Rajasthan government's decision to launch Sohum in primary health centres is a welcome one.

Sohum is a battery-operated, non-invasive device developed by the Union Ministry of Science and Technology. The purpose is to screen newborns for hearing loss in remote areas where access to advanced health care is limited.

Sohum can be used by any ordinary healthcare worker and promises great accuracy. The advantage is that it does not require babies to be sedated.

Sohum Innovation Lab, the team behind the device says it is designed such that it will meet the needs of all stakeholders. "The needs of key stakeholders like parents, paediatricians, maternity homes and healthcare workers, are met with. The unique business model links the child directly to Sohum certified audiologists for further care."

Sohum will be used in 10 primary health centres and three tertiary centres on a pilot basis for three months. In this time, the government plans to screen 740 newborns.

This is an important move because if detected early, measures can be taken to prevent other problems such as impaired communication skills.

Delay in identification of deafness means delay in language development. This affects the social, emotional and cognitive development and the effect gets compounded and affects quality of life in later years. So, it's imperative to identify hearing loss in children before the critical period for speech language development passes, that's before they are three years of age. - Tina Saighal, Founder, Sanket Foundation

The Health Ministry aims to make this available across India to reach out to the nearly 26 million babies that are born every year.

Ruma Roka, Founder, Noida Deaf Society welcomes the move but recommends that the government consider screening up until five years.

"The challenge could be that large numbers of deaf children are born Hearing - meaning with no hearing loss. But over a period of time and due to multiple reasons, they lose their hearing ability before the age of two years or so. These children would have been placed under the category of not being hearing impaired at birth. I feel not only at birth, but this initiative would have profound impact to understand the enormity of hearing impairment in the country if done from an age group of 0 to 5 years."

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