Deafness or hearing impairment is one of the commonest disability in India. It results in social isolation of the individual and can cause financial hardships to the entire family. The burden of treating or rehabilitating the deaf/hearing impaired individual is on the family. Often the costs of treating the deaf are very prohibitive and can send the family into a spiral of debt. Even with adequate treatment, hearing may not be restored completely. Cochlear implant surgery is commonly carried out for children who are born with profound deafness. The surgery is successful only when done at an early age (ideally under 3 years of age and atleast under 5 years of age)
Even after a cochlear implant surgery, there is a requirement for long-term rehabilitation under a speech therapist. This further adds to the financial burden of the family. The government of India offers free surgery under a Government sponsored scheme. The facility is available at select hospitals. However, this works only under a certain age. For older children and adults with deafness, there is no acceptable treatment.
Scale of the problem:
According to the census done in 2011 (updated in 2016)
- Total population of India:121 Cr
- People with disability:2.68 Cr
- People with hearing disability: 50,72,914 (over 50 Lakhs)
- Men with hearing disability: 26,78,584
- Women with hearing disability: 23,94,330
Why is this a problem: 38.7% ( 19,63,217 people) are dependent and 32.5% (16,48,697) people are students. This adds up to over 36 lakh people who are not financially productive.
Why is it difficult for the deaf to find gainful employment:
To find gainful employment, there is a requirement of either education or a skill. The other option is to work as an unskilled worker.
Education for the deaf/hearing impaired is very difficult with very few opportunities for education. There are only a handful educational institutions and NGOs offering education for people with hearing impairment. Only 4.65% of people with disabilities have a graduate level qualification which clearly shows that education hasn’t penetrated the disabled population.
Developing a skill also needs access to a skill training course. In the rural areas, people often acquire a skill from a family member like pottery, carpentry etc. However, where there is no family member available to impart the skill and in urban areas, access to skill training is also very limited.
When a hearing impaired person applied for an unskilled job, they have to fight bias and stigma to get the employment. Often people who are hearing impaired make good workers as they have fewer distractions and offices which have one hearing impaired person are likely to hire more hearing impaired individuals. These offices are however few in number.
To conclude, There is a very high number of people with hearing impairment/deafness in India. Once they have crossed a crucial age, there are no treatment options available for them. They tend to live a life where they are socially isolated and also dependent on others for money. We need to look long and hard to find a solution to fit them into society in a gainful manner.
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