A sustainable model for cochlear implantation in the developing world: perspectives from the Indian subcontinent

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Purpose of review

The overall prevalence of deafness in India is 0.2%, but the prevalence in the southern state of Tamil Nadu is much higher (around 0.6%) because of consanguinity. Especially in India, establishing cochlear implantation as a treatment modality for hearing loss has been a daunting task, but in the last decade, the cochlear implantation program has emerged as an unqualified success in many states, with over 20 000 cochlear implantations done till date. Several states are sponsoring free implants to children under the age of 6 years and below poverty line.

Recent findings

Nearly 3000 cochlear implantations have been performed in Tamil Nadu under the Chief Minister's Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme, with the goal to have a ‘deafness free Tamil Nadu’ by 2025. This scheme covers nearly 40 million people in rural areas. Valuable lessons have been learnt from this social experiment. One of the cornerstones of this scheme is the method to deliver habilitation via satellite centers in rural areas at the doorstep of the patient. The outcomes in peripheral centers were found to be statistically similar to those in the main center and correlated well with duration of habilitation.


Opening up satellite centers for habilitation across the state of Tamil Nadu has greatly helped to improve the attendance and outcomes. The Indian model has been hugely successful and has helped start similar cochlear implantation programs in neighboring countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

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