€7m promised for surgery to ensure 350 children can hear fully

The HSE has finally committed to funding a long-delayed double surgery that can bring hearing to more than 350 deaf children.

Health Minister James Reilly told the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday that approximately €7m has been “put aside for next year” to ensure bilateral cochlear ear implants can take place in Ireland.

The delicate procedure addresses deafness caused by damage to the cochlea.

It works by joining two other parts of the internal ear through invasive surgery, which in turn bypasses the problem area.

While single cochlear ear implants have been available in Ireland for a number of years, chronic HSE funding problems have meant affected children have been forced to do without bilateral hearing.

The situation — which contravenes long-established international best practice guidelines — has left more 350 children without full hearing.

Beaumont Hospital, where the procedures are carried out in Ireland, has repeatedly hit out at the situation, first revealed by the Irish Examiner last year.

In particular, the facility has warned that despite the need to address childhood deafness as soon as possible, some children are facing waits of up to six years for any type of help — a delay which causes speech, language, education and social development difficulties.

Until recently little progress had been made on resolving the problem.

However, after repeated calls from the families of affected children through the Happy New Ear group, a business plan for how to pay for the surgeries has now been drawn up.


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