India has got its own indegenously developed newborn hearing-screening device, Sohum.
It has been developed by Sohum Innovation Labs India Pvt. Ltd, a start up of the School of International Bio-design (SIB). SIB is supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India
Sohum is a unique low-cost device which uses brain-stem auditory evoked response, the gold standard in auditory testing to check for hearing response in a newborn. As of now, this technology is prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to many.
Sohum has made the technology appropriate for the resource constrained settings and aims to cater to nearly 26 million babies born every year in India.
Congenital hearing loss is a common birth disorders, and may be a result of either genetic or non-genetic factors. These factors are mostly associated with resource-poor economies such as India where, unlike advanced healthcare systems, hearing impairment goes un-diagnosed.
Thus, when it is discovered at 4+ 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.
Globally, eight lakh hearing-impaired babies are born annually of which nearly one lakh are in India. And all this preventable damage needs is early screening, which can facilitate timely treatment and rehabilitation.
The portable Sohum Hearing-Screening 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.
Sohum, a 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 advantage 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.
The device has been installed in five clinical centers that are currently running the hearing screening program. The aim is to screen two percent of hospital-born babies in the first year, before scaling up.