A 13-year-old-boy, Harsha, smiles as he holds his right hand up to his right ear, showing his new BTE hearing aid

Living his life out loud: Harsha’s story

Every year, over 27,000 children in India are born with hearing loss.

Worldwide, hearing loss is the second most common impairment and one of the most severe forms of disability.

Harsha’s parents always thought of him as a quiet and reserved child. Even at 13, he never ventured out to develop friendships or play with children from his locality. Instead, he clung to his brother, who was four years younger than him. Working as daily wagers, the parents were away from the children most of the time, and the two brothers looked out for each other.

One day, Harsha’s mother noticed him responding better to loud noises and conversations. Was Harsha not an introverted child as she thought? She decided to observe him closely over the next few days. She discussed her suspicions with her husband and shared her concerns with her friend, Asha, who suggested they take Harsha to St. John’s Hospital in Mugalur.

At the St. John’s Community Health Training Centre, Harsha underwent screening tests for hearing loss. The doctors confirmed what Harsha’s mother had suspected: He was hard of hearing in both ears. He was successively referred to the doctors at the Unit of Hope, a dedicated division for children with disabilities under the aegis of CBM India Trust and St. John’s Centre for Children with Special Needs.

Harsha received a Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aid for his right ear. The doctors informed the family about the speech training sessions and advised them to attend regularly. Harsha was enthusiastic: he came to all the vocational sessions and practised talking with his brother and parents.

This was back in 2018. Even though Harsha took a while to adjust to the BTE device, he quickly picked up his mother tongue. He was more present and livelier during family discussions and engaged more with others. His hearing had affected communication and language learning, and Harsha’s parents admitted him to school to give him more learning opportunities. While at school, he began to read and write. Even though it was challenging, Harsha made new friends who also helped him with his speech training.

Harsha received his second BTE hearing aid for his left ear in July 2022 during a hearing aid distribution camp at St. John’s Training Centre. As he had only one hearing aid, he had to tilt his head to the right to hear well, especially when talking to someone or driving past honking vehicles. Since then, he has gained more confidence. Harsha is determined to achieve his dreams. “When was the last time you got your ears checked?” he asks.

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