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Please give my little Anna chance to hear, parent pleads

IMAGINE your child became thoroughly confused in a crowd and completely exhausted after struggling to hear all day.

This is the case for about 350 children in this country who could be given the gift of normal hearing with a specialised operation.

The children have already had a cochlear implant operation, which gives them partial hearing, but they need a second implant to allow them to hear normally.

Their parents are now pleading with Health Minister James Reilly for funding for the operation for each child.

The group, Our New Ear, says time is running out for many of the children, who need a second cochlear implant before the nerve endings in their second ears die.

At the moment the HSE will only fund a single implant -- but the group wants two implants to be offered as standard for every child needing the operation.

In other EU countries it is normal practice to insert two implants at the same time.

Lorraine Murphy, whose daughter Anna already has one implant, says her daughter must have the second implant within the next year.

Lorraine, from Rivervalley, in Swords, says the second operation costs about €36,000 per child and must be carried out within three to five years of the first operation.

Anna was born profoundly deaf and only heard sounds for the first time after cochlear implant surgery.

The touching scene of her implant being switched on was featured on the Temple Street Children's Hospital TV series on TV3 last December.







Exhausted

"With just one implant children pick up speech but it's like trying to listen in a crowded room. They come home exhausted," said Lorraine.

"With a second they can locate the sound and it's much safer for them because they know which direction the sound is coming from, and it could be something like a car horn."

She says the HSE will not fund parents going abroad for the second operation, so that is not an option.

"About two children in every 1,000 are born each year needing these implants. There were up to 150 kids born last year."

The surgery takes about two hours and it is six weeks before the implant is turned on.

Danielle Ryan's daughter Ellie is also waiting for a second implant and her mother has sent a video of Ellie to health officials across the country as part of the campaign.

"We now have newborn screening, which is terrific, and the sooner the children have the operation, the better."

Asked if the HSE planned to fund the second operations, a spokeperson said: "Details of individual hospital budgets will be confirmed as part of the regional service planning process now under way."

csheehy@herald.ie