Boy given bionic ear launches appeal to help other deaf children

Binyaameen Ali was just two when he had a cochlear implant. Now his family want to help other deaf children. Catherine Scott reports.

THE family of a schoolboy whose life was transformed following cochlear implant surgery are raising funds to say ‘thank you’.

Binyaameen Ali had the devices surgically implanted in both ears aged two at Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s (BTHFT) Listening for Life Centre.

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Three years on Binyaameen is a happy, bright schoolboy on par with his peers. As a way of showing their gratitude, Binyaameen’s parents, Muhammad and Renu Ali, of Bradford, have started fundraising to raise £3,000 for the Listening for Life Centre’s Cone Beam Scanner Appeal – and personally donated the first £100.

The quest is now on to raise the £190,000 needed to buy a cone beam scanner, which will be used to scan the ears of patients and identify the best possible position for a cochlear implant’s electrodes. The cutting-edge scanners provide significantly more accurate results than standard CT scanners and create less irradiation.

Mr Ali, an Islamic consultant, said: “Having cochlear implants fitted has been life-changing for Binyaameen. His hearing deteriorated from birth, but thanks to the implants he is able to hear and speak very well.

“If he had not had the cochlear implants he would be communicating via sign language. Hearing and speech are linked and thanks to the implants, his continuous use of the external processors and the great speech and language therapy he’s received, his speech and comprehension is improving on a daily basis. The support, help and guidance we have received from the whole team at the Listening for Life Centre has been amazing. In line with our Islamic teaching of ‘Like for others what you like for yourself’, we just want to show our appreciation and help others benefit, like we have.”

Binyaameen failed his newborn hearing screening and was referred to the ENT team at Bradford Royal Infirmary. Initially, he was given one hearing aid, as his right ear was fine, but after further testing audiologists discovered the hearing in this ear was deteriorating too, which led to him wearing hearing aids on both sides. Soon after, however, Binyaameen was found to have enlarged vestibular aqueducts in both ears, and was referred to Professor Chris Raine MBE, a consultant ENT Surgeon at BTHFT, to discuss having cochlear implants.

Mr Ali said: “Because things kept changing it was more difficult. At one moment Binyaameen had one hearing aid, then two and then even they were no good for him. We were constantly reviewing where we were. Discovering he could have cochlear implants was a big relief. We were fairly anxious about whether he could have them, but then Professor Raine said they were made for kids like him. We were really grateful.”

Binyaameen had implants fitted in both ears at BRI in 2016. “We were a bit anxious regarding the operation but we had to look at the long term,” said Mr Ali. “The implants were switched on a month after the op and within about three months they were fully operational. Binyaameen wears them during all waking hours. We don’t see not wearing them as an option.

“He goes out and meets people, talks to everyone, loves cars and is learning Arabic too. He also attends weekly football training and swimming lessons. During his swimming lessons he uses an aqua kit which allows him to hear whilst in the pool.

“His confidence comes from the ability to speak which, of course, is connected to the ability to hear. The cochlear implants don’t stop him from doing anything – they are there to enable him to live a normal life.

“We recently went to his parents’ evening at school and were told he is performing at the same level as his peers, who are fully hearing. He is often recognised for outstanding work too. People think cochlear implants are restricting, but Binyaameen is developing well and thriving and there is nothing holding him back. We are very proud of him.”

Mr Ali and his wife Renu, a paediatric diabetes clinical nurse specialist at BTHFT, have now set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for the Cone Beam Scanner Appeal via the Ear Trust, which funded the Listening for Life Centre and supports its work.

“We are very grateful to the whole team at the centre, including Professor Raine, audiological scientists, speech and language therapists and the technical unit, and we’d like to raise awareness of the amazing job they and cochlear implants do.”

The hi-tech £2.8m Listening for Life Centre, based in the grounds of BRI, is currently the only centre of its kind in Yorkshire, and one of only a handful throughout the UK. Over the past 10 years it has become the home of cochlear implant technology in the north of England, which transforms the lives of patients with profound deafness.