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Le Bonheur doctor performs cochlear implant surgery on youngest patient ever

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 5:40 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One minute, a Mid-South child struggles to hear. The next, sounds return to her young life.

The family of the youngest patient to undergo a cochlear implant at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital shared their daughter’s success story with Action News 5.

At just 2-months-old Eleanor Nolen underwent cochlear implant surgery.

Now, Eleanoris 6-months-old, and her parents brought her in for a check up on Friday.

“Eleanor was a healthy newborn and at about one month of age she unfortunately developed bacterial meningitis,” said Dr. Joshua Wood, physician at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.

As a result, she suffered hearing loss, Dr. Wood says that’s when he got involved.

He told Eleanor’s parents they had a small window to perform the surgery that would change Eleanor’s life.

“We felt like the reward would be far greater than the risk at that point. We knew that the window was closing and it was a time critical situation,” said Eleanor’s father, Jacob Nolen.

Dr. Wood says a cochlear implant is FDA approved at nine months of age, but exceptions are made in certain cases. Eleanor is the youngest patient ever to undergo this surgery.

Action News 5 has video of the moment they turned on the hearing implants for the first time, provided by the family.

“Can you hear me? Can you hear me? What’s going on,” said Eleanor’s mother, Rachel Nolen.

“Talking to her and her turning your head towards you, you knew she wasn’t just following facial expressions anymore, she was hearing,” said Eleanor’s mother.

Dr. Wood is one of two physicians at Le Bonheur who can perform the surgery; he says about 40 to 50 patients get an implant at the facility every year.

In Eleanor’s case Dr. Wood says the surgery was the only option to restore her hearing.

“With her degree of hearing loss a regular hearing aid would not do her any benefit because of the scar tissue and bone formation,” Dr. Wood.

Now Eleanor has a lifetime of sweet sounds ahead.

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