Hearing Implant and Research Centre opened

Groundbreaking research on cochlear implants
  • Deborah Condon

A new national centre, which aims to carry out groundbreaking research into cochlear implantation and neurological disorders of the ear, has been officially opened in Dublin's Beaumont Hospital.

The National Hearing Implant and Research Centre (NHIRC) is a state-of-the-art facility that has been spearheaded by Prof Laura Viani, who is a pioneer in the field of cochlear implants and neurotology (neurological disorders of the ear).

Prof Viani started the National Cochlear Implant Programme at Beaumont Hospital in 1995. It now carries out over 200 cochlear implants every year.

A cochlear implant is a medical device that is surgically inserted into the ear of people with severe to profound hearing loss. When coupled with an external processor, the device converts sound waves into signals that can be detected by the auditory nerve, allowing the patient to hear speech and sounds and communicate with other people.

"The NHIRC will carry out groundbreaking global research in cochlear implantation and other ear conditions. Ultimately, the work we carry out will lead to a better quality of life for the thousands of Irish people with severe to profound hearing loss and millions of others around the world," Dr Viani said.

She emphasised that the insertion of a cochlear implant is a ‘significant and life-changing' event.

"For children, an implant creates an opportunity to hear, speak and interact with the world around them in a richer way. For young adults, it enables better education and job opportunities. For the elderly, at a life stage when deafness can be very isolating, it allows them to keep communicating with their family, friends and carers," she noted.

The centre was officially opened by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who paid tribute to Prof Viani's work.

"She has revolutionised how we treat severe hearing loss and ear disorders in Ireland. Through her work, thousands of lives will be transformed and people of all ages will be able to hear and communicate with those around them," he commented.

Around 100 babies are born in Ireland every year with hearing problems and an estimated 32,000 people are deaf or hard of hearing.

The official opening of the centre follows a long funding campaign led by Prof Viani, in collaboration with the HSE. The NHIRC team is led by Professor Viani and ENT consultant surgeons, Mr Peter Walshe and Mr Fergal Glynn.

"On behalf of the National Cochlear Implant Department at Beaumont Hospital, it is a great pleasure to see the NHIRC project come to fruition after years of hard work and research. There is much we can do to improve cochlear implants and patient outcomes, and this centre provides a world-class base to work on achieving those goals," Prof Viani added.


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