'A WORLD of silence' is how Dundalk mum Deanna Cairns describes life for her little son Billy, who has lost his hearing after a faulty cochlear implant was discovered.
Deanna, from Bay Estate, is leading the national 'Happy New Ear' campaign for children who are profoundly deaf to be fitted with double cochlear implants.
Her son Billy (4) was born profoundly deaf, and was fitted with one implant, which provided him with a certain level of hearing.
'Unfortunately, it was discovered that the implant was faulty,' explained Deanna. 'So it had to be removed a few weeks ago, and he has returned to a world of silence.'
Billy's behaviour changed 'almost overnight', she added, as he faced the confusion and uncertainty of not being able to hear.
'This highlights once again how important it is that children are fitted with double cochlear implants. If Billy had two implants, he would still be able to hear now.' She explained how Irish children who are born profoundly deaf, face a major disadvantage because the HSE does not offer bilateral (ie, two) cochlear implants as standard, and instead fits children with just one implant at a time.
Deanna's hopes that Billy will have his new implant fitted in the coming week follow almost a month of silence.
'He is stressed, in silence. He doesn't understand and is confused,' said Deanna. 'If they had two implants, children wouldn't have to go through this."
The Happy New Ear campaign are waiting on a report coming in June that they hope will recommend bilateral implants.
They have already handed a petition to Beaumont Hospital, which fits the implants, in January and have been trying to set up a meeting with Health Minister Dr James Reilly. They got a much-needed boost with the mention of the issue in the Dáil and the support of Louth TD Gerry Adams.
Minister Reilly said in March that there are around 200 children in Ireland today who may be suitable for a second implant.
He stated that the HSE is 'working closely with Beaumont Hospital to progress plans for both simultaneous and sequential bilateral implantation.'