Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)

Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)

Road to hearing again takes an experimental detour for Vancouver Island man

Remote cochlear clinic offers shorter commute for patients like Duncan’s Alan Holt

Duncan’s Alan Holt holds the distinction of being one of the first patients ever to participate in the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia.

The project, a partnership between Providence Health Care and others, including Island Health, is being offered to patients so they don’t have to travel for their appointments.

Cochlear implant patients from Vancouver Island normally have to go to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver since it is the BC/Yukon centre for CI surgery and follow-up services such as annual mapping.

The remote clinic allows them to stay closer to home.

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“It’s a new thing they were trying out. Normally I would go to Vancouver and you know what that entails,” Holt said. “They phoned me up because I postponed my mapping for my cochlear and the reason I did it was COVID-19. So they phoned me and said they have this experimental clinic in Victoria. I was all for it.”

Instead of what could be a 12-hour day to get to the hospital in Vancouver, Holt had a quick trip to Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The project was clearly still in its infancy, and was pushed to begin early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They emailed me where to go. There was no reception. I was just to follow the instructions they gave me. They even gave me a shot of the door I was supposed to go in,” Holt noted. “It was pretty good. I went in and as soon as the door closed, the computer came on, and my technician, the audiologist that does the work, she greeted me and so we did a conference that way and then she directed me how to put the cable into my cochlear and I put that on and we did the testing.”

The process at the hospital in Victoria took about an hour and a half — about the same as if he were at the Vancouver hospital in person.

“Everything went easy peasy,” Holt said. “It was really good. It’s really good for the people on the Island. We have, I think it’s in the region of 170 to 180 who live on the Island, with cochlears and it’s a real hassle going to Vancouver compared to just going down to Victoria.

“In years to come, if this goes through well and good, then it will expand and they’ll do it maybe to Nanaimo General or something like that, or Duncan. Really you don’t need an audiologist over here. It was really good. I was very pleased with it.”

Admittedly not one for technology, Holt loves his implant.

“Having seen this, and the benefits for the people that have cochlears, I think it’s going to be very good in the future,” he said, noting he will have to return to Vancouver every three years for a hardware check.

“That was the stipulation they stated,” he said. “The audiologist will have to do a check on the cochlear.”

For Holt, his cochlear implant enhances his feeling of safety.

“My hearing deteriorated quite rapidly,” he said. “But with a cochlear I can be in a conversation. I was always hesitant to ride my bike because I couldn’t hear vehicles coming up behind me. Same thing with where I lived, there were no sidewalks, and I couldn’t hear anybody coming up to me in a vehicle.”

Another bonus of the cochlear implant?

“I get to hear my grandkids now,” he said. “I get to hear birds. It gives a sense of well-being. It really lifts your spirits when you can hear again.”

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sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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