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Monday December 06, 2021

Cousin marriages cause of 70 per cent children born with hearing impairment in Pakistan: experts

November 10, 2021
Cousin marriages cause of 70 per cent children born with hearing impairment in Pakistan: experts

By M. Waqar Bhatti

Cousin marriages are responsible for 70 per cent of hearing impairment among the newborn babies in Pakistan, where every year two to three per cent children are born with hearing impairment, health experts at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) said on Tuesday.

They said children born with hearing impairment also suffer from lack of mental growth, and the perfect time for the implantation of an inner hearing device is the age of two to three, as a child learns to speak and his sense of humor gets boosted for three to four years.

This device cannot be installed after the age of three and a half years, and if this implant is performed after that time, it will be useless and the money will be wasted because the child's ability to store and hear words is no longer there, they said while addressing sessions at the 3rd Cochlear Implant Workshop organised by the Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Dow University of Health Sciences.

The chief guest of the closing ceremony was Vice Chancellor Prof Muhammad Saeed Quraishy, while the guest of honor was Faisal Edhi, head of Edhi Foundation. Cochlear implant training was provided to doctors who were involved in ear and nose surgery and came from different areas of the country to participate in the workshop.

Prof Quraishy said the number of people considered as burden on the society can be reduced in Pakistan with the help of cochlear implants, which is an expensive treatment, but it is extremely effective for children born with hearing impairment. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area to make this treatment cheaper and more effective, he added.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Dow University of Health Sciences Prof Nusrat Shah said cousin marriages should be stopped to prevent births of children with defects. She stressed the need to create awareness in this regard.

The medical community and religious scholars should spread awareness and make clear it to the masses that it is not mandatory to marry cousins, she said, adding that marrying cousins is allowed but it is not mandatory and should be avoided at all costs.

Prof Fauzia Parveen, principal, Dow International Medical College; Prof Shuja Farrukh, chairman of the Department of ENT; Prof Salman Matiullah Sheikh, Prof Zeba Ahmed, head of ENT Unit II, Dow University; Prof Sareen Naz; Dr Iqbal Khan; and Dr Najam-ul-Haq addressed the workshop, among others.

Prof Iqbal Khayani said that by December 2019, 736,900 children worldwide had had cochlear implants and their results were emerging positively. The cost of cochlear implants, pre-operation tests and hospitalisation take a lot of money; therefore, strict procedures are followed to determine the appropriate candidate for the cochlear implant surgery.

The cochlear implant program in Pakistan started 12 to 15 years ago. In this regard, Dow University has signed a memorandum of understanding with a UK charity organisation. In the first phase of the program in 2012-13, an audiologist, a speech therapist and two cochlear implants surgeon were sent to London for training, and the Dow University funded cochlear implants in 52 children through its own efforts and funds, but many registered children are still deprived of this treatment due to financial issues.

After a gap of four to five years, the program has been partially revived with the efforts of a few NGOs and Dow University, which has been slowing down unnecessarily. So far, 65 pediatric cochlear implant operations have been performed at the Dow University Hospital.

Faisal Edhi said the Edhi Foundation had been helping many organisations, including the Dow University, in its charitable work and would continue to serve humanity. He said the depreciation of the rupee had increased the exchange rate of the dollar, but the Edhi Foundation would not change the nature of its services.