NHS England has announced plans to fund pioneering new brain surgery for children who are deaf. The surgery will enable them to experience the sensation of hearing for the first time, and will be made routinely available.
The Auditory Brainstem Implants (ABIs) surgery will be performed by two highly specialist teams at hospitals in Manchester and London on children aged five or under who are ‘profoundly’ deaf and unable to use conventional hearing aids or implants because their cochlea or auditory nerve did not develop properly.
The highly complex procedure involves inserting a device directly into the brain to stimulate hearing pathways, bypassing the cochlea and auditory nerve that have not developed properly.
After the implant has been inserted, long-term support is crucial to help children learn to listen and understand new signals from their implant. This may be as simple as recognising their own name being called, but it may also involve understanding simple phrases.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “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.
“As we put the NHS Long Term Plan into practice, the health service will continue to make the very latest, innovative treatments, like this, available to patients across the country along with world class care.”
It is estimated that about 15 children per year would be assessed for the auditory brainstem implantation and that about nine would go on to have the surgery, which costs around £60,000 per patient.