ST. ALBANS — When Dr. Kristi Dumont is not on the sidelines of her children's cross country running or ski races, she’s in an exam room on Mapleville Depot Road in St. Albans, helping people get a piece of their life back.
Programming a set of hearing aids for a patient, she told the Messenger, is “literally like flipping a switch and watching them come back to life.”
Dumont opened Northwest Hearing Services in 2003, after realizing there was no audiologist dispensing hearing aids in the area. The practice offers pediatric hearing services, hearing tests, hearing aid fittings and tinnitus (ringing in ears) treatments. New patients are being 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’s adapting and learning with the times.
Q: What initially drew you to the field of audiology?
A: I did not have a family member who was in the medical field, I just really liked my science classes in school.
With physical therapy or speech therapy, it can take a long time to see the results. In optometry and audiology, it’s more immediate. You can program a hearing aid and help somebody right away. I liked that; it fulfilled what I was looking for.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: Our days are similar but very different. We definitely do a lot of hearing tests for new patients and existing patients. We do evaluations for patients with tinnitus (ringing in ears) complaints. That’s primarily our focus here.
With existing patients, we conduct hearing tests to see if changes to hearing are happening as expected or if there is reason for concern. If they're wearing hearing aids, we want to reprogram the hearing aid to keep up with the change in hearing loss.
For new patients of course, we're trying to see where they are and if there's anything that needs medical attention or if they are a candidate for rehab with hearing aids.
We do see all ages. We don't see as many kids because hearing loss is not as prevalent in the younger ages.
Q: How do you keep up with the latest research in your field?
A: I attend conferences virtually and take online classes. To maintain a license, you need roughly 10 hours of training a year.
Before the pandemic, lots of those were only offered in-person, but as a private practitioner and a mom to three kids, it’s hard to get time away to travel. There are not a lot of audiologists in Vermont, so we don’t get a lot of [speakers or educators] who come to us.
In November, I attended a national conference online. There were several different courses and they are usually short, like one to two hours and they touch on new ideas in hearing aid programming and setting. There was another on new ideas for treating tinnitus.
Q: What are some of the interesting conversations happening among audiologists at the moment?
A: The biggest thing in our field as of late is how untreated hearing loss is tied to cognitive decline and how cognitive decline can affect a patient's response to hearing aids.
There are a lot of classes out there right now regarding how to handle a patient’s hearing aids settings when their cognitive function is not where it should be.
Q: You’ve been an audiologist for 25 years. Are there types of situations that still challenge you?
A: We do hear with our brain, and even if you're lucky enough to have normal hearing into your 70s and 80s, you still do not process sound as efficiently and as effectively as when you were younger. That's difficult for patients and especially for patients’ family members because they often blame the hearing aid when sometimes it's not the hearing aid.
So there’s a lot of counseling in my field, and that'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 the Messenger’s Preferred Business Program.