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"It's a shame": Parents appeal for funding for cochlear implants

Parents are to hand a letter to Beaumont hospital calling on them to equip children with two implants instead of one.

A GROUP OF Irish parents has met with the HSE to call for it to release funding so that deaf children can be fitted with two cochlear implants – not just one.

Happy New Ear is a group set up by around 20 parents of children fitted with cochlear implants, and last Thursday they handed a petition to Liam Duffy, CEO of Beaumont Hospital, about the issue. The night before they were due to hand in the petition, they received a call asking them to send two representatives to meet with the HSE.

The group now hopes to meet Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, about the issue, and says that Beaumont Hospital, where the procedure is carried out, supports them in their campaign. Hundreds of children are awaiting their second cochlear implant, with delays due to  a lack of HSE funding.

Happy New Ear

The Happy New Ear campaign began with a video made by a parent, Danielle Ryan, about her daughter Ellie’s story:


(drdanielleryandr/YouTube)

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, fellow mother Deanna Cairns said that her son Billy Cairns (4) has one implant, but that he and other children would benefit more if they had two. Cairns, who lives in Dundalk, has two older children aged 12 and 10.

She said that Ireland didn’t have routine newborn screening for deafness until 2012, so children like her son weren’t diagnosed until they were older. Cairns said that a lack of funding means that Irish children are receiving one cochlear implant instead of two, which parents have found is not beneficial.

She said her son “would be a prime candidate” and “definitely needs a second” implant. “When there is more sound around, they can’t locate where the sound is coming from,” she said.

Cairns said that other countries that offer these implants ensure children are initially fitted with two implants, rather than just one. “Why is Ireland so behind?” is the question these parents are asking, said Cairns.

Billy was diagnosed with profound deafness at 17 months. His parents were told he was a prime candidate for cochlear implants.

“If I had had my son in Newry, he would have been diagnosed straight away,” emphasised Cairns. If people do go abroad, to the UK for example, they have to deal with the hospital aftercare in that country. Cairns has two older children, so travelling abroad regularly with a young child for aftercare wouldn’t be feasible.  It is “very frustrating”, she said.

“He seems to be struggling”

Billy has had one implant now for nearly two years, but Cairns says that he is “not doing as well” as someone with two implants because he is not getting the full benefits.

He seems to be struggling. If I shout his name in another room, he will come running in to me. But he is just not getting enough for the speech to come.

Cairns believes that if her son had two implants, then this would improve his ability to pick up speech. But “it’s amazing to see” his progress to date.

He is coming along slow. They say it is a slow process. When you switch them on it’s like starting a child from newborn. He is trying to catch up on all of that.

Cairns said that parents whose children have one cochlear implant and are in mainstream schooling have said they “are coming home very tired” because of not having two. For now the focus is on getting the HSE to increase its funding for cochlear implants, to ensure that more children are fitted with two instead of just one.

“It’s just heartbreaking to see,” said Cairns.

This could be helped. It’s just a shame.

Read: Young Cork boy comes home after ‘bionic ear’ is switched on>

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