Eliminating The Sound Of Silence

“By using the Auditory-Verbal Therapy (AVT) for the hearing impaired, which emphasis on ‘Listening’, we have till now enabled almost 200 children to grow up in a normal learning environment, become independent and participate in mainstream schools and society,” introduces Dipika Lall, Vice-Chairperson, Centre for Hearing Impaired Children (CHIC), Jamshedpur.

On a cold, sunny December morning, the almost 30 students of CHIC were dressed up and excitedly waiting for the guests to arrive. They were going to perform a multiple song and dance program for their audience. Besides AVT, the children participated in age-related activities, such as sports, dance, drama, skits, art and craft, etc. 

This was an important occasion. The XLRI Alumni of 1971 which was Dipika Lall’s batch, were in town for their 50th reunion. The Alumni had gifted CHIC vital equipment like the Brainstem Evoke Response Audiometer. CHIC, now is looking to upgrade equipment, such as Impedance, Oto Acoustic Emission, and Auditory State Steady Response. 

On arrival the group was taken around the school premises. The first interaction was with Audiologist Sanjay Kumar Mishra in the well-equipped audiology unit with the new audiometer. Backed by 10 years’ experience, the Bachelor in Audiology & Speech Therapy demonstrated the initial critical checking which leads to prescribing appropriate hearing aids. 

The Stage One teacher-to-student class with three-year old Gopal and his mother, is with therapist Neha Sharma. “This is where the AVT begins ‘Conditioning with the sound’ and individually provides speech therapy to develop normal speech + language. 

Therapist Susmita Samanta who has been working with CHIC since 2000, was with her 2nd stage student. “I am teaching him to listen and convert sound to word. It starts with a word or two and then it is two-three words’ sentences. The children come to us before they are five years old. The earlier we start with them, the greater is the success rate. What I do here, more importantly, adds another feather in my cap of experience in a more innovative way,” she says. 

The next, 3rd stage, has Shreya communicating through sentences with therapist Navomita Chakraborty. The girl comprehended what we asked her. “During this phase we deal with the student’s comprehension, speaking sentences, and preparedness for normal/ regular school integration. One of the activities for the young ones is learning rhymes and music through ‘Listening’. Each child’s success is a great personal challenge and achievement for us teachers,’ affirms Navomita. 

This interaction between teacher and student at each stage lasts from four to six months depending upon factors, such as the child’s age, degree of hearing loss, and most important, the parent’s involvement. This is integral as parents have to be committed to be involved with the child for his/ her whole life – or at least till they are independently capable of being educated. These children then study in regular schools with teachers from CHIC interacting with the class teachers on a regular basis and monitoring their students’ progress. 

Outside again, the performances by the children were delightful. Hearing them sing and dance in rhythm to the music, one couldn’t imagine that they were born with congenital hearing impairment. Kudos certainly go to the entire, devoted CHIC team – and the children’s parents. 

To find out more about how CHIC started, Vice-Chairperson Dipika Lall tells about when, after her MBA from XLRI, she joined Mrs Meher Vakil in 1986. The aim of the founder of the Education Audiology Research Society (EARS) in Mumbai, was to start an Infant Centre of EARS in the Steel City. 

The Infant Centre started with two little girls, Pooja and Dolly. Dipika’s first meeting with them was during three-year-old Pooja’s test in the Audiology Unit of the ENT department at Tata Main Hospital. “One signal was given and Pooja immediately looked up and smiled. Her parents ran up to Mrs. Vakil and exclaimed: “Our daughter can hear”. 

Seeing the relief and joy on their faces Dipika felt she had found her vocation – to take up this challenge of bringing happiness in the lives of children with hearing disabilities. 

“I told Mrs. Vakil, I was interested in making this my career choice. Of course, when the question of remuneration came up, she felt that she would not be able to compensate me according to my qualifications! My parents had taught me to “give back to society whatever you have gained”. I told her my remuneration would be making these children hear and speak. Mrs. Vakil agreed, smilingly – and our journey began,” recalls Dipika, almost 35 years later. 

As word spread about the availability of this facility, the number of children with hearing problems contacting them increased. In 1990 the Infant Centre got its Managing Committee and Dipika was appointed Vice-Chairperson. Tata Steel provided a separate building and also assisted in setting up testing labs, classrooms and provided seed money. 

In 1997 the therapeutic center was formally renamed, Centre for Hearing Impaired Children with Hindi and English continuing as their mediums of instruction. As CHIC was the only facility in and around Jamshedpur, newborns, infants and children started coming in. “We offered early intervention which helps in ‘Listening’, automatically leading to vocalising which is possible only with AVT,” details Dipika. 

Besides being coached on the job by Mrs. Vakil, Dipika received special training from Brother Kelly S.J from Gabriel Institute of Hearing Impaired, Sydney, when he visited CHIC. 

The AVT method of teaching has advantages over other lines of treatment. Its success rate in making children join the mainstream is well established. Other methods being used for children older than five-six years emphasise on communication through sign language, cues, speech, and gestures, etc. as they are too old to benefit from AVT. 

“AVT is not a new method, but became popular as the only equipment required is a good quality hearing aid. In many cases where Cochlear Implant has been done, AVT becomes more effective,” Dipika explains. 

For the Vice-Chairperson a working day involves overseeing the administration and primarily being involved in AVT training of therapists, counseling the parents, integrating children in normal schools, and subsequently regularly monitoring each child’s development at various stages. 

The ‘mother’ in Dipika would be quite disturbed hearing the parents’ woes but she, along with her team work diligently to make each case a success. “My first moment of satisfaction was a couple of years after I took over – when a child uttered two words. Her mother was emotionally overwhelmed, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks and crying “We never thought our daughter would ever speak”. My tears too were of a deep sense of satisfaction at what I had witnessed. From two children, we grew to 4/6/10 and the number kept increasing to our 321 registered children; of these 187 children through the normal procedure of admission are in regular schools. However, we don’t work with more than 30 infants simultaneously, as each child needs independent training and attention,” she continues emotionally. 

As most children are from low-income families, Tata Steel facilitates the basic infrastructure and paying an honorarium to the staff. For all other activities and replacement of equipment, CHIC depends on public donations. 

While treatment for the children is free, they need to procure the audiologist’s recommended hearing aid which costs approximately Rs. 20,000 each or Rs. 40,000 for a pair. Fortunately, the cost of most equipment has been borne by well-wishers and philanthropists. 

The primary, initial funding came from Mr. Jack Timken who visited CHIC in 1996 while in Jamshedpur. Timken Foundation of Canton’s generous donation enabled CHIC to procure additional equipment, resulting in a full-fledged audiology unit being set up in 1997. 

Examples of fundraising within the family include Dipika and Dushyant’s daughter Gopika and her husband Siddharth Dev running United Way of Standard Chartered Bank Mumbai Marathon in 2011 and 2012 to raise funds for CHIC. 

Dipika’s brothers, USA-based Ravi Akhoury and Dr. Ratindranath donated money in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Akhoury Jankinath, for the auditorium above the CHIC office. Hemant Lall, Dushyant’s brother, has been sponsoring costumes, props, and accessories required for the Annual Day since 2018. 

An unforgettable encounter was when on a flight to Singapore, the gentleman sitting next to Dipika got talking. She told him about CHIC. He asked if she had time to meet his mother, who was interested in work for the disadvantaged in India. Dipika met the Singaporean lady and recalled, “She was an elegant, pleasant person and genuinely seemed interested in what I was doing. Two days later, she sent a handsome cheque to be used for CHIC. I was overwhelmed. We are still in touch, but she and her son like to remain anonymous about their generous donation. God bless them.” 

“Like them, there are a lot of caring people who have reached out and helped CHIC in different ways. This is what makes me a total optimist. I know funding for our children will keep coming, as it has been for over three decades,” signs off the Vice-Chairperson positively. 

Email: [email protected] Tel: +91-657-2431907 

Priyanka Jha at CHIC
Priyanka Jha came to CHIC in 1998 as a one-year-old child with a cleft palate, hare lip, and lack of hearing. With the AVT training, in 2002, she was a ‘hearing-and-talking’ infant and went to the renowned Baag E Jamshed pre-nursery school. In 2015 she joined Loyola School and passed with 94 percent marks. Next, she went to the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in 2019. Upon graduating she joined United Health Group Optum and works in Hyderabad.

Dipika Lall
Dipika Lall, Vice-Chairperson, CHIC, Jamshedpur
Rashmi Kumari at CHIC
Rashmi Kumari, 26, got married recently after meeting her husband on Facebook, and moved to Delhi. She joined CHIC when she was 11 months old and started speaking at three years. A BCA degree holder, she worked as a Quality Control Inspector at Kyocera CTC Precision Tools Pvt Ltd., Jamshedpur. 

Dancing at CHIC
Dancing through the beats of music
Riddhi at CHIC
Riddhi came to CHIC at the age of two. She secured 94% marks in Class 10, then completed her Engineering from NIT, Jamshedpur. She is currently looking for a placement.
Rishi at CHIC
Rishi, 17, was two years old when he joined CHIC. He got 75% in Class 10. He is studying Chemical Engineering at BITS Patna. His Bengali-speaking mother learned Hindi and then English to help him study. 
Amita Sarwal
Amita Sarwal

After an erratic 10-year practice as a homeopathic doctor, Amita took to writing in 1973.  Her 45+ year career encompasses contributions to a very extensive gamut of magazines and newspapers- in India and abroad-on lifestyle, travel, architecture, personalities, book, and restaurant reviews, etc.  
During her 21 years based in Singapore, she was an Editor with the renowned publisher Editions Didier Millet and completed six pictorial encyclopedias on Indonesia and Malaysia among other coffee table books.  Her personal passion was writing ‘The spirit of SKV’- Chronicle of a Girls’ School to mark the Golden Jubliee (2006) of her alma mater Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior.
Now Amita has an increasingly strong focus on featuring Changemakers/Unsung heroes of India who are helping make a difference to society-“because the world needs to know about their exemplary work.”  Yoga, social work to help the underprivileged, reading and collecting forms of Lord Ganesh also keep her busy.

Read more by Amita Sarwal


Text by Amita Sarwal
Read another article by Amita Sarwal
Photographs courtesy CHIC, Jamshedpur

25 thoughts on “Eliminating The Sound Of Silence”

  1. Amita so glad you came along with Ashi visited the Centre &how well each step has been explained in your article…written so well im speechless..You have always appreciated what me & my team did even as way back in the ’80s We at CHIC are extremely greatful to you for not only appreciating the work alone but sharing it with others.This encourges us to do more for these speciial children of God…. God bless you!

    1. I have had the good fortune of visiting CHIC a few times. Dipika and her capable staff through their selfless work have brought joy and hope to both the children and their parents. God bless!

  2. Dipika has been dedicated to CHIC for as long as I can remember.
    She has a band of teachers and Drs & technicians but she holds it all together.
    It must certainly be gratifying for her. We the citizens of Jamshedpur are grateful and appreciative of the yeoman service Dipika has been rendering in the field of helping the hearing impaired children. Wish there were more like her.
    Wish her more success. God bless her and her big support Dushyant, her husband.

  3. I am touched by the great contribution made by Dipika Lal for the hearing impaired children. India is blessed to have people like her who has helped thousands of human beings to lead a normal life inspite of the hearing disability.

  4. From the core of the heart I am wishing you success & may GOD bless you to fulfil your dreams.
    I hope you continue the good work and achieve greater heights

  5. In early 2019, the XLRI Class of 1971, which entered XL in June 1969, came up with the idea of commemorating our 50th year of this association by doing something tangible for Society. Our search brought us face to face with CHIC in December 2019 when we had a life changing experience when we saw first hand the incredibly humane work being done by our batchmate, Dipika Lal. Amita has very crisply captured the essence of what is CHIC and the kind of work Dipika and her Team are engaged in. Hats off to her n her zeal n commitment.. thanks Amita for bring this to the outside world. Class of 1971 is proud of our batchmate 🙏🙏🙏💐💐💐💐

  6. Amazing work done by Dipika lall at CHIC…what a wonderful way to give back some thing to society…….Infact giving life to these special children of God ..
    Three cheers to Dipika a true Trailblazer…

  7. Dipika , congratulations on doing such a great job at CHIC.
    I ‘m really pleased you mentioned Mrs Meher Vakil in your article. She brought AVT to EAR (her centre in Mumbai) and then took it all over India. She should be remembered for her pioneering dedication to help the deaf and hearing impaired. She did everything possible to help promote AVT and even brought Dr. Ling the most renowned Audiologist from The U S to teach us at EAR and even housed him in her own home. Later she arranged for his student brother Kelly from Australia. To continue teaching the staff at EAR.
    Wish you and chic continued success in your endeavours in helping hearing impaired children succeed in life as they learn to listen and talk.

  8. A very well written article. Got a detailed insight to all the good work done by CHIC. Have known Dipika as a kid, though not in touch now, but commendable work done by her and the centre for the kids.

  9. Highly inspiring initiative lead by Dipika. I knew it will be a pathbreaking intervention in the country for the AVT Children. My family members were privileged to be part of the inaugural ceremony of CHIC and Fondly remember our mentor and Guide Shri Jankinath and most affectionate Mrs Jankinath. Feel proud to be part of the Jankinath and Lal family and wish them good health and all the happiness to take the initiative to much higher level for the children who need AVT

  10. An amazing and inspiring article. Details of the center
    have been well explained. Does justice to the efforts
    of the children, the well trained staff and last but not
    least Mrs Dipika Lall. God Bless in all future ventures.

  11. Congratulations for doing such good work. Proud of you. Wishing you success in whatever you do in life.

  12. A great article explaining the great service to hearing impaired children by the institute. With all personalities to the cause of human society. Have Known Mrs Deepika Lal through her husband Mr Dushyant Lal, who also graduated from my institute at Pilani.

    The children who get benefited would certainly give positive vibrations to human society in spreading the message of compassion, love and kindness to all.

    With best wishes to institute and children who get benefited.

  13. Prabir Dasgupta
    Wonderfully evocative article on you and your work.
    Congratulations Dipika on your great service and success with the challenged!
    Altho’ we visit Jamshedpur frequently, being a recepient
    of your largesse and are aware of your work, yet we
    never managed the time out to visit your institute.
    Being nearest to the church but furthest
    from God, I think!

    Best wishes and continue the great work!!

    Prabir Dasgupta

  14. Dear Dipika,
    Read with great pleasure article published on you
    and CHIC on the great work being done for hearing impaired children!
    Humbled by your selfless dedication and tenacity in
    making a difference in the lives of so many such challenged children.
    It’s a pity we never made the time to visit your institute.
    Must do so earliest!!
    Best wishes and keep up the great work.

  15. Great job is being done for hearing impaired children . It is not only noble but equivalent to Nobel in this field. Dipika’s ambition in this field will keep skyrocketing as long as she wants. May God give her long life to keep on helping the children who need her help and guidance

  16. Congrats, Dipika to you and your excellent team, who are doing a brilliant & laudable work for the special children…with Amita beautifully describing the great work being done by CHIC, and sharing her on site experience, wider visibility would be achieved, which would translate into much bigger support to CHIC…

  17. It’s well explained about Center for Hearing Impaired Children. We at CHIC try our best to deliver for hearing impaired children and feel proud if these special children are integrated in normal schools and join mainstream of society. We are grateful that you have appreciated our work.

  18. What an inspiring story! Speaks volumes of the dedication, commitment, hard work and perseverance of Mrs. Lall🙏🙏🙏
    This is not an easy work, by any stretch of imagination. And to do this for decades, selflessly, is truly commendable.
    We also need to salute the full family’s contributions.. brothers of Mrs. and Mr. Lall, Gopika and her husband.

    A very touching story indeed!🙏

  19. Dipika Ma’am this is such a noble cause that there are no words to appreciate the work you are doing. I am happy to carry forward this and bring it to singapore and more countries. We need to learn from you and this should not be kept to Jamshedpur only. Let maximum children get the benefit of this work.

  20. Wow, Congratulations, Deepika. Very proud. Much deserved international recognition for outstanding job that you have been quietly doing for so many years.

  21. deeply touched by this wonderful and eloquently written article by Amita . Dipti Lall’s life work with CHIC helping hearing challenged children overcome huge odds spurring them on to achieve their goals and dreams to become independent is so amazing and praiseworthy. Being a mother to a specially abled adult myself I can fully understand what a major achievement this is in the lives of children and the parents of specially abled folks. May God bless you and may you continue to bring happiness , hope and joy in many more lives.

  22. Dear Dipika Lall,
    The article on CHIC by Amita Sarwal is very informative. I’m sure it will spread the word about the Centre’s work and its achievements to a wider group, and hopefully, many benefactors. The accolades you have received from the author and others could not be more deserved. Anjali and I had the privilege of visiting the Centre with you a few years ago, meeting the teachers and some of the students, and watching the students rehearse for their Annual Day performance. If I remember right, we also met one of the audiologists. We know firsthand the difference you and your selfless work have made in the lives of many impaired children by giving them the gifts of hearing, learning, and independence. We are very proud of you and your inspiring work, and wish you ever greater success in your mission!
    Chandra M. Srivastava

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