Boy’s case against HSE for alleged failure to diagnose hearing problem settled

four courts, dublin

23 February 2022

A 10-year-old boy whose hearing loss was allegedly not picked up for four years has settled a High Court action for €175,000.

Stephen Connor had a hearing test at Mayo General Hospital in 2013 when he was aged two, but that test was allegedly inadequate and he went undiagnosed as suggesting hearing loss until 2017, the court heard.

Hugh O’Keeffe SC, with Doireann O’Mahony BL and Damien Tansey Solicitors LLP, told the court the boy is among a cohort of children identified in a Health Service Executive (HSE) review of western audiology services between 2011 and 2015.

The HSE later apologised for failures identified in the review of paediatric audiology services in Mayo and Roscommon. It found that, out of 995 cases examined, 49 children had been affected. Of these, 13 patients were retested and identified as having a hearing loss.

Stephen Connor, of Turlough, Castlebar, Co Mayo, had through his mother, Michelle Connor, sued the HSE for allegedly failing to provide adequate audiological assessment and management to him and allegedly delaying the diagnosis of his hearing impairment.

The settlement is made without an admission of liability.

It was claimed Stephen’s mother had been concerned but she was told Stephen’s hearing was perfect when he was referred to the audiology services at Mayo General Hospital.

Five months later, in October 2013, had further audiological assessments and his hearing was deemed normal.

It was claimed the testing carried out was totally inadequate and that the boy’s hearing was recorded as normal despite allegedly clear evidence of speech delay and parental concern.

Three years later the boy failed school hearing screening tests in the right ear and had borderline results in his left ear.

He was again referred to the audiology services and he was seen in April 2017 where he was found to have hearing loss in both ears, although greater in the right than the left.

It was alleged Stephen had been deprived of the opportunity of gaining earlier management of his hearing impairment which would have given him full access to the speech spectrum and improved his language acquisition during that time.

Counsel said that while the boy’s hearing loss is not severe it is significant as to its effect.

All the claims are denied.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey approved the settlement, which he described as fair and reasonable.

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