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Govt Launches 'Sohum', A Low-Cost Device To Test Hearing of NewBorns

Yesterday saw the launch of Sohum, a new hearing screening device developed by School of International Biodesign (SIB) startup M/s Sohum Innovation Labs India Pvt Ltd meant especially for newborns. While a lot of us take the gift of hearing for granted, there are many children which still can't hear their own voice when they take birth. Sohum aims to change that.

The indigenously developed hearing screening device was formally launched yesterday by Y.S. Chowdary, Minister of State, Ministry of Science and Technology & Earth Sciences at Prithvi Bhavan.

Congenital hearing loss is considered as one of the most common birth disorders--which can be a result of both genetic and non-genetic factors. In underdeveloped and developing countries like India, where healthcare is still considered a luxury, hearing impairment goes undiagnosed mostly till 4+ years. Till then it becomes too late to do damage control as it can lead to a lot of problems such as impaired communication skills and even possible mental illness in some cases.

Around 800000 hearing impaired babies are born annually all around the world. Out of this, nearly 100000 are born in India. Sohum can help facilitate timely treatment and rehabilitation for these hearing impaired babies. Sohum team has come up with the screening device to facilitate the routine screening of newborn babies – with the potential to help children at a key stage of their development.

Being promoted as a valuable contribution to government's Make in India campaign, Sohum makes use of brainstem auditory evoked response, the golden standard in auditory testing to check for hearing response in a newborn.

The startup aimed to create a low-cost product as until now the technology available out there is very expensive and out of reach of many. Sohum has worked towards making the technology appropriate for the resource constrained settings in India and is on a mission to help nearly 26 million babies born every year in India.

The portable Sohum Hearing Screening measures auditory brain waves via three electrodes that are placed on the newborn's head. When they're stimulated, they detect electrical responses generated by the brain’s auditory system. If there is no response, the baby cannot hear. Sohum has made a special effort in making the device as non-invasive as possible, which means there's no need for babies to be sedated, a common practice currently.

As of now, the device has been installed in just five clinical centers. Their aim is to screen 2 per cent of hospital-born babies in the first year, before scaling up the business.

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