Is there someone at home who keeps turning up the TV volume to a point that it starts to bother you? Or is there someone in your circle who has been ignoring his ear problems for a while? If yes, you need to be worried about them. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 360 million people or about 5.3% of world’s population lives with disabling hearing loss. Of these, 75 million people live with hearing disability in India alone.1,2
“Hearing loss is one such disability that you can’t see. The condition draws a curtain around one’s’ life, isolating him or her from rest of the community” says Dr. Sarvejeet Singh, consultant surgeon with the ENT Care Hospital, Gurgaon.
For people who suffer from hearing loss, speech may sound either muffled or distorted, making it difficult for them to differentiate between similar sounding words, either way breaking down their ability to communicate with others. With the break-down of communication comes the feeling of isolation, frustration, lack of self-confidence, anxiety and/or depression. Such patients suffer in personal as well as professional environments. For kids suffering from this condition, the impact is greater; as it can affect the development of their speech as well as their academic performance.
Is there a solution? Thankfully, yes! Middle ear infection is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and if detected early, can be treated for. However in India, a majority of people who suffer from hearing loss risk losing their hearing ability permanently due to the multiple barriers that they face in getting the required care. Most of this centers around lack of awareness, access or affordability of treatment options.
To solve this, the Shruti program was launched in 2013 specifically to serve the hearing loss patients belonging to the economically weaker sections of the society. The Shruti program works around three key pillars:
First of these is an innovative ear-screening device that marries the traditional otoscope with a smartphone. Using this device, one can screen the patient, capture her information & remotely upload it to a server. Second, the program introduces the concept of health-workers. These are people from local communities who are trained to conduct ear-screenings. These health workers go door-to-door, proactively taking specialized care to people’s doorstep. Lastly, there is an ENT doctor, who receives all data uploaded by the health workers and can provide appropriate care to these patients.
Anwar Hussain, 35 years old, works as a scrap-dealer in Gurgaon. He is one of the patients who has been treated under the Shruti program. He says, “For around 12 years, I suffered from an earache. There used to be pus discharge as well. It was difficult to work with this condition. It was also affecting my ability to earn a living but I did not have the money that was needed for the treatment.” Anwar’s ears were screened by a Shruti health-worker, who after identifying the issue referred Anwar to one of the ENT doctors. Anwar received subsidized treatment in Jan’2017. “Not only has the ear pain disappeared but now I am able to hear more clearly. I feel good that I can now understand what others are saying and communicate with them clearly” says Anwar.
With over 390,000 people screened and many receiving successful treatment, the Shruti program has proved to be an excellent example of health system innovation that aims to create a sustainable business that benefits the masses. The program that was restricted to one test site in 2013, today serves patients in across 25 sites in India, working with hundreds of ENT doctors and as many health-workers.
1.WHO datacentre http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs300/en/
2. DGHS, Govt. of India http://dghs.gov.in/content/1362_
“This is a public awareness initiative by India Medtronic. Any and all the Information provided in the article are for general overview and educational purposes only.”