I’m full of amazement and respect for Jason, who (with family and friends) funded his child’s second implant when their local primary care trust (PCT) turned it down; Tom, who had meningitis, lost his hearing, but the first implant got it back, and the second is really getting it back. (Within the limits of implants, which I’ve mentioned before.) Implants are not cheap. You’re talking tens of thousands of pounds.
But I think we’re going into la-la land when we say that to refuse a second implant is a “denial of human rights”, as claimed by a different set of parents in this Wandsworth Guardian (no relation to the Gdn) story.
Two-year-old Oskar Berknov has been profoundly deaf in both ears since birth and had one surgical implant fitted a year ago, allowing him to access sound and to develop language skills. But Oskar’s parents are calling for the PCT to fund the second implant which might allow their son to be educated in a mainstream school environment.
Mr Berknov said: “His ability to learn to talk, to make friends, to be safe in traffic and manage independently in school is all dependent on the directional hearing this implant would allow.”
Sorry, but it’s not. His ability to talk and make friends isn’t dependent on the second implant; we’ve got proof living in our house. (And how would you prove that the second implant is going to do the trick and make the difference?) Being safe in traffic? Might do, but even hearing children aren’t too smart at that one. Children have problems understanding traffic, because they underestimate the speed of approaching cars. That’s not hearing-related.
The lack of a second implant doesn’t hold him back from mainstream school either, because if your child has been deaf from birth then you (the parents) will have a Statement of Special Education Needs (SSEN) which you get written by your health visitor, say, and present to your local authority, which means that your child has a personal helper, and the school installs special gear to help him hear what the teacher’s saying.
The parents have clearly had a hard time of it: they only got confirmation that their child was deaf through a private hearing test, because the PCT insisted he could hear. (That’s not uncommon. I spoke to one parent of an implanted child who wasn’t identified as deaf until the age of three, because she was so good at working out what the testers were doing that they didn’t realise she couldn’t actually hear them.)
But here’s what it boils down to: without a big infusion of money for implants, if you give one child a second implant, you’re denying it from another. And the difference between no implant and one implant is a lot bigger than that between one implant and two. The first is the difference between no hearing and hearing; the second, between hearing and more hearing.
The only way to justify a second implant is to make the case to the PCT that spending that money will save you more than that amount over the life of the child. And that’s really hard to do.
Meanwhile, blogsearch turns up a child in Illinois who has had an implant – no, two – at the age of 7 months. Wow, that is young. And it’s interesting that the insurance company (one assumes it must be) is paying for two, isn’t it?
I’m not saying, see, that bilaterals are a bad thing. If the parents can bear their child to go through it, they seem to bring clear benefits. But it’s a problem when you’re talking about limited public funds.