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Montreal Children's Hospital performs first cochlear implant surgery on young 'super hear-o'

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Two weeks ago, a child with hearing loss being treated at the Montreal Children's Hospital underwent cochlear implant surgery, a procedure that was only offered in Quebec City until now.

Arman Dimirjian started losing his hearing when he was three years old. By the time he was 10, the impairment in his left ear meant that his hearing aids couldn’t help anymore. This meant he was eligible for a cochlear implant.

Dimirjian was the first patient in Montreal to receive the surgery on Jan. 17, 2023. The procedure was a success — so much so that he feels like he has new "superpowers."

The implant consists of an electronic device that replaces the function of damaged or missing hair cells in the inner ear that transmit stimulation to the hearing nerve fibres.

"It’s really great. I can hear things better now. Well, sort of, because it’s kind of sounding robotic, but I’ll get used to it soon and I just can’t wait to hear things so clearly," he said.

The staff that has gotten to know him affectionately calls him their "super hear-o."

Arman Dimirjian is excited by the fact that the implant is completely waterproof. (Christine Long/CTV News)

The robotic sounds Dimirjian mentioned are being fine-tuned as the cochlear implant is finessed for him during weekly adjustments.

"At first, the nerve receives those electric impulses and feeds the brain with that electric sound, which sounds robotic," said audiologist François Prevost, who treated him. 

"What is beautiful with that is that it’s the brain that's receiving the nerve or the signal that, over time, will learn to transform that robotic signal into something that sounds natural."

Surgically, the implant was placed under the skin with a wire right into the cochlear part of the inner ear.

"It’s better for him in crowds with noise and knowing where sounds are coming from,” said Dr. Melanie Duval, an otolaryngologist.

"By bypassing the natural pathway of sound, we’re able to help him hear better. So we really bypass what’s no longer working well and feed his hearing nerve with electric signals that deliver him sound. And with better hearing comes a fuller life."

His mother, Maggie Dimirjian, said this is a positive first step to gaining his hearing.

"He hears music better, and in school, it’s helping him a lot," she said.

"This is just the beginning, and already he’s doing very well. He’s received it well, the implant, and we already see progress.”

The progress is expected to continue as Dimirjian gets used to his new superpower.

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