Baby left deaf by meningitis can hear again

A BABY who beat off a potentially deadly strain of meningitis that left him deaf has been hailed a medical miracle after his hearing was successfully restored.

Liam Coughlan, from Shanakiel in Cork, lost his hearing in late December after overcoming a severe form of meningitis.

But three months later the nine-month-old became the youngest person in Ireland to have sound-restoring implants placed in both ears simultaneously.

Surgeons acted quickly, fearing any delay in operating could leave him permanently deaf because of his young age and the potentially devastating effects of the meningitis on his ears.

His parents Grace and John have since endured an agonising wait, wondering if their son would ever hear again as surgeons told them they had to wait a further five weeks to allow his swollen ears to heal before turning the implants on for the first time.

But John said the happiest moment of the year was last week when Liam, on hearing his father’s voice, turned around and gave him a wonderful smile.

Overjoyed John, 36, said the moment he found out Liam could hear again filled him with as much joy as the day he was born.

Liam still faces a long road ahead. He will soon begin a five-year rehabilitation programme to learn how to speak properly and make up for the lost months of development when he was without hearing.

But John and fiancee Grace, 32, say they feel confident for the first time since their son first contracted meningitis that he will lead a normal and happy life.

John said yesterday: “He’s just getting used to all kinds of noises at the moment, because they are all strange to him and he doesn’t know what to make of them. But he’s looking fierce happy with himself and is more alert than ever. The past few days have been the happiest we’ve had as a family in months.”

Surgeon Laura Viani, who runs the National Cochlear Implant Programme and who operated on Liam with fellow ear, nose and throat specialist Peter Walshe, said she is in talks with the Department of Health to provide funding for bilateral simultaneous implants for all children, following the success of Liam’s operation.

“I would like this to be available for all children who have had meningitis, because it gives them the best chance of having their hearing restored,” she said.


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