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He'll smile ear to ear

Jamshedpur: Class V student Ashray Agrawal was born deaf. And, profoundly so, which means his ears did not register any sound even at the highest possible volume.

Two weeks from now, the 15-year-old will perceive profound changes in his life, courtesy a special surgery.

Ashray, the son of Parsudih businessman Dilip Kumar Agrawal and a student of Lajpat Public School in Sakchi, received a cochlear implant in his right ear at Kantilal Gandhi Memorial Medica Hospital in Bistupur.

Dr Ashish Kumar Lahiri, a senior ENT consultant from New Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital who conducted the two-hour surgery assisted by three doctors of Medica, said they would "activate" the implant after two weeks.

"A cochlear implant is a surgically placed electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing in both ears. Our patient, who was unable to hear properly since birth, will be able to hear two weeks from now," Lahiri told reporters after the surgery.

On how the device was different from a hearing aid, the ENT specialist said cochlear implants bypassed damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulated the auditory nerve.

"Hearing aids only amplify sounds so that they may be detected by damaged ears. Implants generate signals that reach the brain via the auditory nerve and are recognised as sound," the doctor explained.

According to comprehensive studies, cochlear implants have a high success rate when hearing aids are not suitable for a child or an adult with severe hearing loss like in the case of Ashray.

On the downside, the cost of a single cochlear implant is a steep Rs 6 lakh. Hospital sources said the entire cost of the surgery was borne by the patient's family.

Sanjay Mishra, a Medica audiologist who assisted in the surgery, said four out of 1,000 newborns were born deaf in India. The hospital, he added, would soon install an otoacoustic emissions equipment, a special screening machine that helps detect deafness in babies soon after birth.

This is the second challenging surgery conducted by the private hospital this year. In January, Medica had gifted a 35-year-old woman a second life through a rare spleen operation.

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