Govt launches low-cost screening device to detect congenital hearing loss in newborns
The portable hearing screening device, Sohum, measures auditory brain waves via three electrodes placed on the baby’s head
New Delhi: The ministry of science and technology launched a low-cost indigenous screening device on Monday to detect congenital hearing loss in newborns.
The technology developed by the School of International Biodesign (SIB) start-up Sohum Innovation Labs India Pvt. Ltd. has until now been prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to many.
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The portable Sohum hearing screening device measures auditory brain waves via three electrodes placed on the baby’s head. When stimulated, they detect electrical responses generated by the brain’s auditory system. If there is no response, the child cannot hear.
“The battery-operated device is non-invasive, which means babies do not need to be sedated, which is the current, and risky, testing in process at present. Another key advantages over other testing systems is the patented, in-built algorithm that filters out ambient noise from the test signal. This is important because health clinics can be incredibly crowded and noisy,” a statement by the Department of Biotechnology said.
The device has been installed in five clinical centres that are currently running the hearing screening program with the aim of screening 2% of hospital-born babies in the first year, before scaling up.
One of the most common birth disorders – congenital hearing loss – is a result of both genetic and non-genetic factors. These factors are mostly associated with resource-poor economies such as India where, unlike in advanced healthcare systems, hearing impairment goes undiagnosed. When it is discovered at 4-plus years, it’s too late to reverse the damage and this leads to a host of problems such as impaired communication skills and even possible mental illness, all of which have a deep impact on the child, emotionally and economically, life-long. Early screening, which can facilitate timely treatment and rehabilitation.
Globally, 800,000 hearing impaired babies are born annually, of which nearly 100,000 are in India.