Martin Cousineau got his start in hearing health in 1986 as an audioprosthetist, and a decade later he cofounded Helix Hearing Care of America Corp. and served as its director, vice president, and COO, managing more than 200 hearing-health clinics. While there, though, he quickly noticed how frustrated many of his clinics’ patients became as they moved from one hearing-health and communication professional to another over the course of multiple visits. The process was inefficient because the system of care was inefficient, and Martin Cousineau began to wonder whether it would make more sense to put as many different hearing-health professionals under one roof as possible.
So, in 2002, he did exactly that when he founded Lobe Santé auditive et communication, a Québec-based hearing-health and communication clinic that today houses hearing-health professionals, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and more. The business also manages the largest network of multidisciplinary clinics for hearing health in the province.
Percentage of the population that is deaf to some degree
Percentage who have taken action to correct the problem
Year that Lobe was founded, with a mission to centralize hearing-health care
Circulation of Lobe Magazine, a quarterly focused on increasing hearing-health awareness
Number of clinics that president Martin Cousineau managed for his previous company before founding Lobe
“Over 10 percent of the population is deaf to some degree, and only 20 percent of these people have taken steps to correct the problem—for a variety of reasons, including the lack of information, not understanding how to go about it, and restricted accessibility to services,” Cousineau says. “The conventional model does not always meet the needs of the population. In some cases, the wait times are several months or even years before a hearing-health professional can be consulted. We therefore observed a real need in the area of hearing health in Québec.”
Lobe has taken many steps to make sure its patients’ needs are being met. It employs specialized educators who provide patients with information about hearing aids, including advice about how to adjust to listening and communicating with them and how to clean them. Its nurses offer invaluable support to the physicians who practice at the clinic, and they organize talks and information booths and perform screening tests to try to detect early signs of hearing problems. “One of the objectives sought with the arrival of the nurses is to put more focus on prevention instead of treatment,” Cousineau says.
“In the years to come, the number of people with hearing problems will increase considerably—the logical consequence of the aging population as well as increased life spans due to progress in medicine and improved living conditions,” Cousineau says. “To satisfy this growing need, we need to facilitate accessibility to services and better inform people about hearing health.”Lobe also stresses the importance of hearing-health education. It publishes Lobe Magazine, an English and French quarterly with a circulation of 1.2 million that increases awareness of hearing health through articles written by health professionals. It also founded Lobe University, set up to help create, teach, and share the latest trends in the field of hearing health and find creative solutions that will support patients’ well-being.
Lobe is not only playing a big part in improving its patients’ hearing health; it’s also having a big impact on its surrounding community as well. The practice’s approach—“Just one call. We Listen. We Care.”—has helped bring Québec residents closer, and the new clinics it’s building are creating a lot of jobs for architects, engineers, lawyers, and construction workers. Lobe also donates money to organizations that cater to those with hearing problems and to entrepreneurs who are dedicated to the economic development of Québec, and it has partnerships with numerous organizations that support seniors. “To sum up, Lobe is growing with its community,” Cousineau says.
For the sake of convenience, Lobe also works to put its clinics close to other medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. “It has always been our intention to be close to our patients,” Cousineau says. “Our models are very flexible and adapted to the needs of the market.”
Lobe has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people under Cousineau’s watch. But what those patients might not know is that they bring him just as much joy—probably more. “I’m happy to have the best job in the world,” he says. “I’m surrounded by a team that infuses me with energy, and I still have the same passion and love for dreaming, planning, building, observing, improving, and then dreaming some more!”