New Delhi: Where stem cell therapy has apparently failed, a tiny electronic device implanted in the inner year is offering hope to thousands of children suffering from acute hearing loss in the country who cannot be helped by hearing aids.

A cochlear implant is a device that provides direct electrical stimulation to the auditory (hearing) nerve in the inner ear. Over 63,000 children in India need hearing implants and only 6,500 have been able to avail it so far.

Australia, which is the highest exporter of Cochlear implant worldwide, is now teaming up with Indian hospitals to help identify the patients who can be benefitted the most by this surgery.

Terming it as the best therapy for hearing impaired which has been able to help over two lakh people world-wide, Innovation Minister of Australia Kim Carr on Friday said that it was important that the children with disability are identified at an early stage.

"Research has shown us that early exposure to sound helps babies develop the connections in the brain that enable them to understand the sounds around them for the rest of their life. So the earlier children are fitted with hearing aids the better it is," Carr who visited the cochlear implant unit of Sir Ganga Ram hospital said.

"At the Cochlear Implant Unit, Australian technology is helping Indian doctors identify which babies could benefit the most from a cochlear implant, rather than other treatments," Senator Carr said. Sir Ganga Ram hospital is one of the recognised centres by the government where the National Hearing Conservation Programme is running successfully.

"Cochlear implant helps hearing-impaired people who are unable to benefit from traditional hearing aids. It is the best technology. Even stem cell therapy and gene therapy have not been able to bring back sound to the hearing impaired," Dr Shalabh Sharma, ENT surgeon, Sir Ganga Ram hospital said.

"One of the parents whose child has undergone cochlear implantation surgery had been to China for stem cell therapy but came back with zero results. The stem cell therapy did not help child. She had to go for cochlear implant and it has worked wonders for her," Sharma said.

(Agencies)