Deafness is a silent disability. Unlike poor vision, where one can easily know if he/she cannot see properly, there is no way for people to determine hearing issues early on.
‘Are you deaf?’
How many times have you heard someone use this line or have used it yourself? Many of us would like to believe that the reason behind most “beg-your-pardon” requests is either poor network coverage or a person’s voice.
At times, what we fail to realise is that the person we are addressing may actually have hearing problems and may be struggling to understand us.
Even though hearing is one of the important senses, deafness is a silent disability. Unlike poor vision, where one can easily know if one cannot see properly, there is no way for the people to determine any hearing issues. To add to that, people’s attitude doesn’t help. By the time they realise they cannot hear properly it is too late, Uday Raga Kiran tells The Better India (TBI).
Having served in the healthcare system for ten years, audiologists Uday Raga Kiran and wife Remya, from Hubli, Karnataka, are trying to change people’s casual approach to addressing the problem of hearing loss.
The couple wanted to nip the problem right in the bud. They worked incessantly on several trial and error devices aimed at detecting hearing loss, despite no engineering background. Finally, Uday and Remya created “KIVI” – a portable device that can quickly detect hearing loss or its signs in a person.
Eighteen months ago, the couple started their own company ‘Nautilus Hearing’ for easy diagnosis of hearing loss. The breakthrough came in 2018 when the Karnataka Government agreed to fund their project after the start-up won in Karnataka Government’s ELEVATE 100 Programme.
Why Affordable Hearing Loss Diagnosis Is Important
Around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, and 34 million of these are children reports World Health Organisation (WHO). Another WHO study published in 2016 stated that in India, five million children live with hearing and speech impairment.
There are two types of deafness – nerve and conductive. However, both are preventable if detected early. Uday believes that if devices are available and affordable, the number of hearing loss cases can come down significantly. The duo blames the insufficient diagnosis available, especially in the rural areas, for the increasing instances of hearing problems in India.
Clinics and hospitals require space to accommodate the devices that detect hearing problems. Plus, these devices cost Rs 10 lakh. Due to the absence of financial resources and space, the clinics don’t have the facilities, says Uday.
Upon further research, the couple found that people in some rural regions have to travel at least 50 kms for hearing loss treatment and whenever they embark on the journey, they need a friend or a family member to accompany them. Thus, more often than not, people who require treatments or a diagnosis tend to forgo a visit to the hospital thinking it is too much effort.
In addition to the lack of infrastructure, people’s take on hearing loss is another issue why the ignorance towards such a serious problem persists.
“People are becoming more and more health conscious. But regular health check-ups include checking diabetes and cholesterol levels and test every organ except the ears. This is due to the lack of awareness,” adds Uday.
What is “KIVI” and how it helps?
KIVI, which in Kannada means ear, is a portable device that weighs 800 grams. The test takes 10 minutes to detect the problem. Costing Rs 2 lakh, it prepares a digital diagnostic report.
KIVI does not require any space, and most importantly the purchasing cost of the device comes down by 80 per cent. We hope the doctors accept our device, says Uday.
There are two forms of the device available. One is for clinics and hospitals and the second device is for educational institutions and factories.
Since the device is portable, it can travel anywhere in India. People, thus, won’t have to travel long distances, says Uday.
As of the now, the device is in the testing stage. Based on the success rate, the duo can get a medical clearance, possibly by next year. So far, the couple has tested the device on more than 250 people, and the success rate has been 100 per cent.
To raise awareness, the bootstrapped organization is now conducting outreach programmes in rural areas and educational institutes. The audiologist couple developed the device to ease the problems people in rural areas face in their struggle to either get a diagnosis or a treatment for hearing loss. We hope to see the duo succeed in their endeavour.
To know more about the company you can visit here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)