The device is not only seen as a boon for poor in many countries, but it has also provided a viable option for many who can’t afford to buy its international counterparts that cost about Rs.20,000.
Talking about the device Dr. Rao said:
“When the voice box of patients is removed during surgery, they crave to speak. As if the trauma of the disease is not enough, the shock of having lost their voice takes a toll on them, emotionally. My objective was to design something that is affordable and can give them their voice back,”
When asked why he decided to name the device ‘Aum,’ he said:
“We decided to term it Aum, as that is the sound which first resonated across the universe. Regaining one’s voice is so much like a rebirth.”
Giving due credit to others who helped him in this project, Dr. Rao said that he took the help of industrialist friend Shashank Mahesh to deal with the financial aspect of Aum prothetics.
He explained that though the device costs Rs.50 in India, they call it the $1voice prosthesis to make it match international standards.
Some parts of the device were imported from abroad. Like the platinum-cured silicone (two-component high tear strength and flexible mould or casting compounds) was imported from Germany so to be sure it didn’t react with body tissues.
The prototype of the device was tested on 55-year-old Ramakrishna, who is a watchman from Peenya and is suffering from throat cancer.
Ramakrishna on whom the test was conducted successfully. Dr.Vishal Rao
Being a beedi addict, he had a hard time sleeping at night. Such was his condition that it destroyed his power of speech. Ramakrishna was initially given a western voice prosthesis which had a shelf life of 6 months, but since he was too poor to afford a new one, he used the same for nearly two years.
When Ramakrishna approached Dr. Rao, food had started leaking through his prosthesis. By that time Aum was almost finished and Rao offered it to him.
The device worked like a charm for Ramakrishna, and he soon regained his speech and is now doing fine. Since its initial success, the $1voice prosthesis has benefited three patients in HCG and also bagged Karnataka’s innovation award. The duo is now keeping track of its functioning for next three months and will upgrade it if necessary. The device has also been cleared by the ethical committee and the scientific committee at HCG for further research. Nearly 40 percent of all cancers in India are because of tobacco. In such a scenario, Dr. Rao’s invention might go a long way in helping those who lost their voice to that malaise.