Profoundly deaf children will be given access to pioneering brain surgery on the NHS, allowing them to experience the sensation of hearing for the first time.
Children aged five years-old and under who are unable to use conventional hearing aids or implants as a result of their inner ears (cochleas) or auditory nerve failing to develop properly will benefit from the procedure. Specialist teams at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London will insert a device into the child’s brain to stimulate hearing pathways, bypassing the underdeveloped cochlea or nerve in a procedure known as Auditory Brainstem Implants (ABI) surgery.
Cochlear implants are worn outside the body and parts are placed under the skin and in the inner ear. Traditional cochlear implants are worn outside the body and parts are placed under the skin and in the inner ear. (Photo: Tom Pilston) The children will require long-term support to listen and understand the new signals their implants are transmitting. “This truly life-changing surgery, which allows youngsters to hear their parents’ voices for the first time, will now be available across England for children who are deaf who have no other options,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director.
Theo Sankson was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf during the newborn hearing screening programme and was deemed ineligible for cochlear implants following the discovery he did not have auditory nerves at eight months old. I’m the mother of a deaf child – this is why I’m constantly worried my son will become part of the ‘lost generation’ His mother, Imedla Sankson, said she was “eternally grateful” for the ABI he received from the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital when he was two years-old. “After discovering Theo couldn’t have a Cochlear Implant, all we could think about was how would he hear a fire alarm, how could we protect him from danger?” she said.
“It’s now two years since Theo’s device was activated and he can hear me calling him from upstairs. His first word was ‘more’ and his second was ‘mummy’ – something I never thought I would hear. Every day he uses his voice more and more and now loves to try and sing.”