Five-year old Ifshth got a fresh lease of life just about a month ago. Little did his father Abdul Hakkim, a vendor, dream that his son would hear and start speaking some day.

“An advertisement in a local daily about the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS) caught my attention. I applied for the smart card and got it the very next day. Everything that has happened after that has kept us in a daze,” he told this correspondent.

Hakkim got his son admitted in PSG Hospitals in the city for a cochlear implant. The child incidentally was the first among the 35-odd children registered (with PSG Hospitals) under the CHIS for the procedure.

“I did not spend a rupee for the treatment as cochlear implants, among many other life-threatening ailments, is covered under the CM’s CHIS. It’s a blessing for I could ill-afford Rs 8 lakh for the implant and my son would have remained deaf and mute all his life,” he said.

Yet another child, just over a year old, has also had the procedure performed in the last four weeks.

The hospital commenced this programme two months back. “We have completed the procedure on 10 patients. While it is heartening to see these children respond well to the treatment, the awareness level is pretty low,” R Anand, Consultant ENT at PSG Hospitals, said.

Stating that hearing impairment is the most common congenital anomaly in new-borns, he said “six out of every 1,000 kids are victims of severe to profound deafness, which is three times the national average.”

Hailing the Government’s efforts in introducing free cochlear implants for children, he said “people need to be sensitised. It is important for parents to screen their new-born for hearing difficulty. Early detection can help reverse the problem with cochlear implant and auditory verbal therapy.”

The hospital has invested close to Rs 20 lakh on audiology equipment.

The consultant told this correspondent that there were only eight doctors doing cochlear implants in the State. “We need many more specialists,” he added.

The hospital, meanwhile, according to those in the know of developments, is planning to start Implant Fellowships. Approval for the same is awaited from the Medical Council, the source said.

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