Dr. Kristi Dumont
With the worldwide pandemic at the center of people’s minds this year, the health of your ears may not be your first concern, but your ear health is still important. We hear with our brain and therefore people with untreated hearing loss have 3 – 5 times greater risk of suffering cognitive decline, not to mention higher rates of depression and anxiety, due to the social isolation that hearing loss causes.
Dr. Kristi Dumont has been practicing Audiology for 23 years and is the longest-serving audiologist in Saint Albans. She talked to us about her business and how she helps residents manage their hearing.
Q: Can you tell me what all your business offers?
“We’re primarily focused on diagnostic evaluations; evaluating patients’ hearing,” Dumont said “Whether that’s because they feel they might have hearing loss, or if they’re having trouble with vertigo or tinnitus.”
Specifically, Northwest hearing Services offers tinnitus evaluations and treatments and hearing aid fittings and if they discover a problem outside of their range of expertise they will make a referral to another specialist who can help fix the issue.
“There’s multiple other reasons why we may want a hearing test,” Dumont said. “We’re not just measuring whether or not they have hearing loss, but we want to know if there’s some abnormal pattern to their hearing, if there is a red flag that leads us to say, wait a minute, there’s something not quite right with the auditory pathway. People should not just assume they’re having trouble because they’re getting older there are medical issues that can cause hearing loss and that must be ruled out. “
Q: What’s something unique that differentiates you from other, similar businesses?
“In the state of Vermont, as in many states, you do not have to have a doctorate or a degree of any kind to sell hearing aids,” Dumont said. “To be a hearing aid dispenser you can just buy the business license. There’s no education required.”
Not only does Dumont have experience, but she has a passion for her patients and the practice. Dumont loves what she does and loves to see how fast the right hearing aid can change someone’s life for the better.
During the beginning of the pandemic, when many businesses were closed, Dumont adapted, finding a way to make sure her patients still had someone to go to when they had trouble with their hearing.
“We were still here,” Dumont said. “We answered the phones, we weren’t allowed to have patients into the office but we would have them come to the parking lot and we will go out to their car and get their hearing aid for service. We also provided remote adjustments for patients with hearing aids that have that capability.”
Dumont is not just a doctor, she is a member of the community, and, she says, she is not leaving anytime soon. Neither is Shannon Blake, her office manager who has been with her for over 13 years.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Dumont said. “You’re not going to see a turn over. When you buy your hearing aid, I’m going to be the one helping you with it for the next several years and Shannon is going to greet you, answer your phone call, and also help you with some hearing aid problems.”
Shannon completed a year of training and became an Audiology assistant 10 years ago. This allows her to help some patients having hearing aid trouble so they do not have to wait days or weeks for an appointment to see Dumont.
Q: What should people know about getting tested for hearing aids?
It is painless, Dumont said. Getting their hearing checked is not a medical appointment people routinely make, unlike getting their teeth cleaned or going to their General physician. This means that people often do not notice they are losing their hearing until it is drastic.
“Hearing loss comes on so gradually that often I’m telling my patients, ‘if you went to bed with normal hearing last night and woke up with your hearing as it is today you would be running around for an appointment,’” Dumont said.
Q: What are you doing to make sure you’re safe during covid-19
Most of Dumont’s patients are high risk, which means she is taking extreme precautions to keep her patients safe. Along with temperature checks, air purifiers, and masks, after every patient, all surfaces are being wiped down and there are covers on many high-touch surfaces. Also, only one patient is being scheduled at a time.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Northwest hearing did curbside checks for patients with minor problems. They are continuing this practice for patients who still do not feel comfortable coming inside.
“We’ll go out to the car, get what they need, bring the hearing aid in, service it, and bring it out, “Dumont said. “We’re keeping as many bodies out of the office as possible.”
Q: What can you tell us about your experience?
Dumont began practicing Audiology in 1997 and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Hearing & Speech science from SUNY Plattsburgh. After that she spent two years earning her master’s degree in Audiology from Ithaca College
“Audiology was a 6-year program with a residency until 2007 when the doctorate became the entry-level degree. They didn’t make us get the doctorate if we didn’t want to,” Dumont said. “We could continue to practice with our masters.” But Dumont wanted to be able to give her patients the best care she could, so she pursued a doctorate in audiology from A.T. Still University, finishing in October 2013.
History of Northwest Hearing Services
Owner of Northwest Hearing Services, Dr. Kristi Dumont, began her career in Audiology in 1997 after seeing the immediate result of what hearing aids can do for people. Watching the sudden change in their demeanor ignited her passion; “for some patients it’s literally like flipping a switch and watching them come back to life.” She had worked at multiple hospitals and Medical Centers before deciding she wanted to open her own business. Northwest Hearing Services was opened in 2003 by 2 month after she noted there was no audiologist dispensing hearing aids in the area.
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