ST. ALBANS — When Dr. Kristi Dumont isn’t on the fringes of her kids’ cross-country or ski races, she’s in an exam hall on Mapleville Depot Road in St. Albans, helping people get back to some of their life.
Programming a set of hearing aids for a patient, she told the Messengerit’s “literally like flipping a switch and watching them come to life.”
Dumont opened Northwest Hearing Services in 2003, after realizing that there was no audiologist dispensing hearing aids in the area. The practice offers pediatric hearing services, hearing tests, hearing aid adjustments and treatment for tinnitus (ringing in the ears). New patients are accepted as well as most insurances.
A practicing audiologist for 25 years, Dumont spoke with the Messenger about what initially drew her to the field and how she adapts and learns over time.
Q: What initially attracted you to the field of audiology?
A: I didn’t have a family member who was in the medical field, I just really enjoyed my science classes in school.
With physiotherapy or speech therapy, it can take a long time to see results. In optometry and audiology, it is more immediate. You can program a hearing aid and help someone right away. I liked that; it fulfilled what I was looking for.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: Our days are similar but very different. We certainly do a lot of hearing tests for new patients and existing patients. We perform assessments for patients with tinnitus (ringing in the ears). That’s mainly our goal here.
With existing patients, we perform hearing tests to see if hearing changes are occurring as expected or if there is cause for concern. If they wear hearing aids, we want to reprogram the hearing aid to keep up with the progress of the hearing loss.
For new patients, of course, we try to see where they are and if there is anything that needs medical attention or if they are candidates for rehab with hearing aids.
We see all ages. We don’t see as many kids because hearing loss isn’t as prevalent in younger people.
Q: How do you keep up to date with the latest research in your field?
A: I attend conferences virtually and take classes online. To maintain a license, you need approximately 10 hours of training per year.
Before the pandemic, many of them were only offered in person, but as a private practitioner and mother of three, it’s hard to make the time to travel. There aren’t a lot of audiologists in Vermont, so we don’t have a lot of [speakers or educators] who come to us.
In November, I attended a national online conference. There were several different courses and they are usually short, like one to two hours and they cover new ideas in programming and fitting hearing aids. There was another on new ideas for treating tinnitus.
Q: What are some of the interesting conversations going on between audiologists right now?
A: The biggest thing in our field lately is how untreated hearing loss relates to cognitive decline and how cognitive decline can affect a patient’s response to hearing aids.
There are currently many courses on how to manage a patient’s hearing aid settings when their cognitive function is not where it should be.
Q: You have been an audiologist for 25 years. Are there any types of situations that still challenge you?
A: We hear with our brains, and even if you’re blessed with normal hearing in your 70s and 80s, you still don’t process sound as effectively and efficiently as you did when you were younger. This is difficult for patients and especially for their family members as they often blame the hearing aid when sometimes it is not the hearing aid.
So there’s a lot of counseling in my field, and it’s something that gets easier with experience and especially as I get to know patients on a more personal level.
This story is paid content. Northwest Hearing Services is part of Messenger’s Preferred Business Program.