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Imagine the story, the internal struggle of a new born baby born with hearing loss? For an instant, the magnitude of future and its impact on this new born child cannot be envisaged. Now imagine, how many such children are actually suffering worldwide? Quite astonishingly, a large percentage of 360 million people worldwide who suffer from deafness are young, innocent toddlers. Tragic, indeed!

Perhaps adding to this tragedy is the lack, completely and vicious void of awareness. Adding to it, is the lack of financial capability, outreach and the right methodology to prevent hearing loss. It’s not a bewildering fact that many in the utmost rural villages of India would fathom hearing loss in their children just as God’s will or destiny. But is it so? This thought, as ill-informed as it might sound, also reveals the loopholes in our government’s scheme to reach out to these rural, penniless, marginalized societies that have no idea, that perhaps, just perhaps, hearing loss is not a life-long suffering. In fact, it can be cured. And it should be.

Well, when Helen Keller was born in 1880, completely blind and deaf, who knew that in the coming years, her story would revolutionize the entire prism with which we look at people with disabilities? When she said that “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people,” her words had great strength. The same revolution in thought process, many years later, was caused through Malala Yousafzai, who faced a heart-wrenching punishment by the Taliban, all alone and hassled. In 2013, Malala’s life changed when she got her first Cochlear implant and look, today she is an inspirational figure for millions of women suffering in the terror-prone and vulnerable hotspots of geography. Imagine, if Malala couldn’t hear, how would she become a ray of hope?

As we delve deeper into this issue, we can realize that hearing loss is indeed not a curse, as its supposed to be looked at. For example, the Australian-based company Cochlear has been endowing hearing therapies, audiologist’s advice and modernized hearing aids for those in need. In fact, they have been collaborating with various state governments in India to stand up for the cause in a philanthropic manner. But perhaps, this story of outreach would have been incomplete without the assistance of Brett Lee, a legendary cricketer who decided that it was time to stand up for a cause very close to his heart.

This transformation in him began with a personal encounter when his 5-year-old son Preston suffered from hearing loss. No matter how tragic, unfortunate or unjust the trauma was, Brett never gave up and kept exploring the various avenues that could help in healing his kid. During this process, as he delved more and more into the intricacies involved, he realized how many other kids must be suffering from the same ordeal, perhaps even suffering in silence. Thus, in a subtle gesture to give back to the society, Brett started campaigning for hearing health and the massive impact it has in sharpening the mental acumen of a kid.

For the past two years, he witnessed several interesting stories, being part of their life changing moment. For example, when the 83-year-old Pamela from Cambridge, UK had heard for the first time, it was a surreal experience. It’s beyond the mere mental capacity of us to even imagine the trepidation that she went through, though hailing from one of the most developed and modernized countries of the world.

Even the story of Nahum, a little toddler who first heard and spoke after his hearing implant was the most magical moment for her mother Rebecca. Now, Rebecca could watch her son grow, laugh and cry at the little happiness of childhood. As Nahum clapped with excitement, one can compare it to nothing but a young, innocent kid coming alive. Perhaps, later in life he would be an inspiration to so many other kids, teaching them how to fight the hardest battles of life.

Similarly, Shruti Gupta, an alumni of IIT Mumbai, was diagnosed with hearing loss at the tender age of 1.5 years. Later, at the age of 10, she got her first implant and it changed her life. Not only she empowered herself by being an academic and NTSE topper, she even created an app for people with disability. At this young age, she is an inspiration in herself, a feeling that is permeated with her brilliant confidence and humble gaze.

Thus, there are so many stories with meaning and impact. The stigma of hearing loss and the stereotype that it causes is an absolute injustice. Hearing the sounds of happiness is the right of every individual. Perhaps, as a society if we cannot come together to stand for this cause, it speaks more about our own self rather than ours. It’s high time that hearing awareness should be raised. As an empowered, kind and liberated society, it’s the duty of every individual to do his/her bit, no matter how small it might be, because eventually, it’s always significant.

He wants to listen the echo of,
sun-set over that crimson dawn.

He is keen to know, the sound of,
a blooming rose.

He wants to know what it sounds like,
when a seedling grows.

Jasleen Kaur Gumber

Shubhda Chaudhary is a PhD Scholar in International Relations from JNU. She writes on politics and human rights for Indian and International platforms. She can be contacted at shubhda.chaudhary@gmail.com

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