By Caroline Tremblay et Brigitte Fillion. Translation; originally published on the  CIUSSS Centre-sud de l’ile de Montréal’s website. Also published in the December 2017 issues of Sourdine magazine and À l’écoute journal.

It’s a first for the CIUSSS Centre-sud de Montréal (CCSMTL), and an important breakthrough for people suffering from severe to profound hearing loss.

Take a minute and imagine that you suffer from severe hearing loss, you live in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, and you need to get your cochlear implant programmed. You would have to go to Montreal to get it done, right?

Of course not! Thanks to the Reacts platform, you can now get your cochlear implant programmed remotely. Caroline Tremblay, an audiologist with the CCSMTL, remotely programmed cochlear implants successfully for the first time in the province of Quebec using Reacts. Performed from the CCSMTL’s Institut Raymond-Dewar (IRD), the procedure took place at the Rouyn-Noranda point of service on April 21st. The client was assisted by Diane Blais, an audiologist at the CISSS de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue’s Centre de Réadaptation La Maison (CRLM).

Thanks to CCSMTL’s IRD team, there’s a bright future for this service, which is supported by exceptional technological advances.

The main objective of this “pioneering” remote intervention was to improve the accessibility and quality of the services we provide to our clients, and we succeeded. Through this trial, we were able to confirm the relevance of our new service model. We’ve scheduled monthly follow-ups since then.

To date, three specialized interventions were performed remotely with four clients, and this is just the beginning! All members of the teams involved in the interventions were really touched by the warm thanks and positive testimonials received from our clients.

This new method of intervention has allowed us to expand our current service offering to our growing number of clients in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, without our specialized cochlear implants audiologist having to travel any more than before.

 Sound processor adjustment – a CCSMTL specialty

Cochlear implants have sound processors that require periodic adjustments to optimize users’ hearing. For francophone and allophone clients in western Quebec, this specialized audiology service is provided by CCSMTL’s IRD. People with cochlear implants who live in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region are served by the CRLM. Sound processor adjustments are made by an IRD audiologist, who visits the CRLM in Rouyn-Noranda three times a year to provide this service. People with implants used to have to go to Montreal to visit the IRD in the event of problems that suddenly came up between visits. But thanks to Reacts’ technology, users can now avoid spending hours in transit and receive quality service more quickly! This type of service is the only one of its kind in Quebec, allowing for consistent service that can be scheduled at the client’s convenience, while reducing the time spent in transportation and travel expenses, for both clinicians and clients. 

Expertise of the Cochlear Implant Programming Clinic offered for tele-rehabilitation

The IRD serves 900 cochlear implant wearers and its specialized clinic has attained an impressive level of expertise. Because studies show that telehealth use is growing in the fields of language and hearing impairment, the ID-ASD-PD Directorate (Intellectual Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Physical Disability) has supported the rollout of tele-rehabilitation in the CCSMTL’s five clinical areas, including the Cochlear Implant Programming Clinic, through the IRD since the end of the summer of 2015. This project was made possible with the help of its various partners and the support of its IT department. The project team was able to pool the resources required to design a model for an innovative service offering via tele-rehabilitation.

What’s a cochlear implant?

Unless you are hard of hearing, suffer from tinnitus or work in audiology, you’ve probably never heard of cochlear implants. Here’s a brief overview: A cochlear implant is an extremely small device that helps improve hearing (perceived speech and environmental sounds) for people with severe to profound hearing loss. Unlike hearing aids, this device directly stimulates the cochlea through surgically implanted electrodes. It converts sound into electric signals and transmits them to the auditory nerve. In other words, the cochlear implant bypasses the damaged areas of the ear. It captures sound, processes it and electrically stimulates the auditory nerve. These sound processors also require periodic adjustments to optimize users’ hearing.

Image: provided by Brigitte Fillion, Respiratory Therapist, Telehealth Clinical Pilot, Professional Services Division – Assistant Director, Medical Services, and Caroline Tremblay, Audiologist, Cochlear Implant Programming Clinic, Assistant Director, Physical Disability Continuum (First, Second and Third Lines)