Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 26 (PTI): Noting that early intervention and awareness are most vital in tackling hearing disability, Australian cricketer Brett Lee Monday said that he dreams of Kerala becoming the first state to make Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) mandatory.

“UNHS is mandatory in Australia. In Kerala, we are getting to that level and it has to be extended to the private sector,” he said while interacting with students at the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) at its campus here.

The former international fast bowler, the Global Hearing Ambassador of hearing aid manufacturer Cochlear, was the chief guest at an event organised to create awareness on the need to conduct hearing screening on newborns by NISH,in collaboration with the Kerala Social Security Mission and Cochlear.

To a query on the affordability of cochlear implantation, Lee suggested that since it’s a life-changing device, the government could provide assistance in the form of funds and closely work with hospitals for follow up action.

“Cost should not come as an obstacle in the way of cochlear implantation,” he said.

On an emotional note, Lee also recalled the time when his five-year-old son suffered a traumatic injury as a result of landing head first on the floor, leading to hearing loss.

“He suffered hearing loss.I was mortified and upset.

Those days he had to move from the back row of the class to the front.

Luckily for him, his nerve became all right after some time,” he recalled, adding the experience made him associate with an initiative that changes the lives of many children.

“Thanks to the rising awareness and education in India, the people are gradually aware of the social stigma that this disability generates.

We want to ensure that every single child born in Kerala will have screening done for hearing,” Lee said.

K G Satheesh Kumar, Executive Director, NISH, said UNHS has helped identify hearing impairment at an early age.

“It has also helped the children with deafness to make significant progress to acquire spoken language.

Kerala is the first state to provide hearing screening for children in all government centres,” he said.

Dr Mohammed Asheel,Executive Director,KSSM and Director, National Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Thrissur, said they planned to make UNHS mandatory for birth certificate and also for admissions to schools.

“We are hoping to have full participation from the private sector as well,” he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.