First, what is a cochlear implant?
Recently, we profiled cochlear implants performed by our Director of Otology, Dr. Robert Yawn.
A cochlear implant is a cutting edge procedure that changes the lives of patients with hearing impairment and even profound deafness. UTHSC ENT is one of the only places in the region that offers this procedure, and Dr. Yawn has already performed successful cochlear implants on many adults.
But what about treatment for hearing-impaired children?
Today, we are thrilled to share the story of Ella Poppenheimer, a beautiful girl born deaf in 2017. With the help of Dr. Joshua Wood and our world class Pediatric ENT team, Ella’s life is forever changed.
Enjoy Ella’s incredible story, as shared by her mother, April Poppenheimer.
Success Story: Ella Poppenheimer, Memphis, TN
My name is April Poppenheimer and I am the mom to a beautiful, fun loving, and outgoing deaf child named Ella Poppenheimer.
Ella was born at 36 weeks on October 24, 2017 and was a healthy, perfect little girl. During our hospital stay, the nurse came in to do the newborn hearing screening. Ella did not pass this hearing screening. The nurse told us that it could be fluid built up in her ears from delivery and that it happens all the time, not to worry.
The next day, a different nurse came back and performed another newborn hearing screening on Ella. This screening showed the same results as the day before: she did not pass. At this point, the nurses were still telling us that Ella could still have fluid built up on her ears and to come back in one week to have another newborn hearing screening.
When we went for our one week follow up, another hearing screening was performed. Ella did not pass this newborn hearing screening either. So far, Ella had gone through three newborn hearing screenings and had not passed any of them.
We were then referred to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN for a more specific hearing screening called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). The following week, an ABR was performed on Ella and again she did not pass the screening. So, at this point our little girl had failed four hearing screenings. The audiologist then told us that we needed to come back the following week to have another ABR performed to confirm the results of the first ABR hearing screening.
The following week we went back to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital to have another ABR performed. And again, Ella did not pass the ABR hearing screening. At this point we were told by the audiologist that our child had severe to profound hearing loss.
We had remained hopeful throughout all of the testing that Ella could hear but when the 5th and final screening confirmed that our little girl could not hear it was absolutely heart breaking to say the least. I remember sitting in the sound booth going through countless tissue boxes as a million things were running through my mind.
Will Ella ever be able to hear me say “I love you”? Or will I ever hear Ella call me “Momma” or say “Daddy”? It was the small things that parents take for granted that my husband and I might not be able to experience.
The audiologist told us that there was a new doctor, Dr. Joshua Wood, that had just come on board at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital and that he could see Ella the following week. That doctor turned out to be our greatest blessing.
After visiting with Dr. Wood, he did confirm with us that Ella did have hearing loss and that the type of hearing loss that Ella had was called sensorineural hearing loss, which means there is damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve itself.
There is no explanation on how Ella lost her hearing. Dr. Wood said the most important thing for Ella right now is not to delay treatment and that early intervention is key with kids that have hearing loss. I am not going to lie: I was in denial that Ella had hearing loss but the five hearing screenings that she previously failed proved to me otherwise. I am so glad that I did not stay in denial about it because the only person that I would be hurting would be Ella.
Dr. Wood said that with the severity of Ella’s hearing loss, she would be a candidate for Cochlear Implants. Dr. Wood ordered an MRI on Ella to make sure there was not anything else causing her hearing loss and that nothing was deformed that would prevent her from being a candidate for Cochlear Implant Surgery.
In January 2018, Ella had the MRI on my birthday, and we received the best news! That Ella in fact was a candidate for Cochlear Implants. Ella was implanted on October 23, 2018, the day before her first birthday. This was the absolute best decision we have ever made!
The road is tough, it is not easy! From the countless times fighting with a toddler trying to put the processors back on to all the speech classes and at home activities that you have to do for speech, but the reward is so, so, so, sweet!
I will never forget the first time Ella responded to her name. Or when she said “daddy” for the first time. It showed that all the hard work had paid off.
Ella attends a school that is absolutely phenomenal and has helped pave the way for her in developing her speech, listening, and learning. The school, Memphis Oral School for the Deaf (MOSD), has helped so many kids and continues to do so today. We are so blessed that we have a school like MOSD that Ella can attend and the school has been wonderful for Ella.
Dr. Wood and his staff have been absolutely amazing with Ella! Ella continues to grow every single day and we have Dr. Wood and MOSD to thank for that.
UTHSC ENT’s Dream Team is here to help:
Thanks so much to April Poppenheimer for sharing this beautiful testimonial with us! It’s our honor to perform cochlear implant surgery for patients of all ages. Ella’s story will inspire countless others.
If your child is experiencing hearing impairment, our Pediatric division should be your first call! We’re here to help, and we’d love to hear from you.