A new pathway to sound, close to home

Lise Goupil (right) is trained in the use of her new cochlear implant by Audiologist Maryse Laflèche at the MAB site of the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. Accompanying Ms. Goupil is her husband, Yves St-Pierre.
Lise Goupil (right) is trained in the use of her new cochlear implant by Audiologist Maryse Laflèche at the MAB site of the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. Accompanying Ms. Goupil is her husband, Yves St-Pierre.

With support from our CIUSSS, cochlear implant surgery now performed in Montreal

Lise Goupil was out on her balcony recently when she heard birds singing—a sound she hadn’t heard for 20 years.

Inside her apartment, she heard more—the beeps on the microwave, the timer on the oven, even the tick-tock of the kitchen clock.

“It was extraordinary,” she said with a smile during a rehabilitation session with Audiologist Maryse Laflèche at our CIUSSS’s Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre.

These sounds re-entered Ms. Goupil’s life after she underwent surgery at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) to get a cochlear implant—an electronic device that improves hearing by using a sound processor fitted behind the ear. She’s not only overjoyed to have benefited from the life-altering surgery, she’s especially grateful that she got it so close to home.

Ms. Goupil, 71, is one of the first patients to undergo surgery in Montreal under the Quebec Cochlear Implant Program. Until now, the procedure had only been available in Quebec City, requiring patients from Montreal and western Quebec to make multiple trips to the provincial capital for evaluation, surgery and subsequent programming of the device. Faced with the difficulties of travel, hotels, missed work and distance from family, some people were known to give up on the procedure altogether.

Now, those obstacles are gone. Ms. Goupil and her husband, Yves St-Pierre, remained in Montreal throughout the implant process. After her surgery on February 24, Ms. Goupil was able to sleep in her own bed the same night.

A cochlear implant
A cochlear implant

A cochlear implant is a medical device to improve hearing. It helps people who have a significant hearing loss and who cannot benefit from regular hearing aids.

The device has two parts: the implant, which is placed into the inner ear during surgery, and a sound processor which is worn behind the ear like a hearing aid.

The two connected parts analyze sounds and stimulate the auditory nerve, allowing information to be sent to the brain, thus improving hearing.

Traditional hearing aids help people hear by making sounds louder similar to increasing the volume on the television. The cochlear implant on the other hand helps people hear by electrically stimulating the hearing nerve.

Source: Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, McGill University Health Centre

Ms. Goupil, whose hearing had declined steadily over the previous 20 years, says she’s pleased to have undergone a procedure that has opened up a new world of sound (see sidebar), and she praises the dedicated staff at the MUHC and at the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay who helped her along the way.

“It’s great to have had the surgery in Montreal. The support, the proximity, the qualified staff – it’s terrific.”

Yves St-Pierre

A multi-disciplinary team from the MAB site of our CIUSSS has been part of her journey for over a year, starting when Ms. Goupil first turned to Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay for her severe hearing loss. Ms. Laflèche recommended Ms. Goupil for an implant and has accompanied her ever since.

After surgery, Ms. Goupil began an intensive rehabilitation program with Ms. Laflèche and a multidisciplinary team at Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay that includes a social worker, educator and speech-language pathologist. It’s part of the process of maximizing the benefits of the implant through training and adapting to the use of the technology.

Ms. Laflèche says it’s gratifying to see people like Ms. Goupil experience sound again.

“I can see how life-changing it is, and it’s an amazing thing to witness,” she says.

“It’s nice to help someone and have a positive influence on their life. You feel like you’re making a difference.”

Audiologist Maryse Laflèche

Professionals from the former Mackay Rehabilitation Centre for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, whose services are now integrated into CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, have been providing programming and intensive rehabilitation services for cochlear implants recipients since 2001.

However, the recent expansion of the cochlear implant program to Montreal—sought by advocates for years—has brought new responsibilities for the rehabilitation team. Its mandate now covers all of western Quebec, in a partnership with the MUHC and CIUSSS Centre-Sud’s Centre de réadaptation en déficience physique Raymond-Dewar.

Among their new tasks, professionals from Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay now evaluate patients and sit on a selection committee to review candidates for the surgery. Audiologists also work alongside the MUHC for the initial programming of the device after the operation—a critical step in fine-tuning it.

“We now have a significantly expanded role in the client’s cochlear-implant journey,” says Manon Pilon, Clinical Coordinator for the 25+ program of the Cochlear Implants Service at Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay.

That enlarged role recognizes the team’s experience and expertise with cochlear implants for children and adults, she says.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s part of our institutional memory,” Ms. Pilon explains. “It’s nice recognition that after years of advocacy, we’re seeing the program serve clients and their healthcare needs—right here in Montreal.”