top of page

Listen Up!
Audiologists Reveal 
The Dangers Of Hearing Health
and Balance Disorders

By Dara Mormile


If you ever heard the joke about drivers who lower the volume of music in their car while cruising down a street so they can ‘see the house addresses on the block,’ you probably understand how critical it is to be aware of your surroundings!


“We can really only focus on one thing at a time,” said Audiologist Dr. John Weigand, President, founder, and director of audiology at Liberty Hearing Centers in New York City. “If I had to back into a narrow parking spot while driving, I turn my music down - even if I have the rear-view camera on.”


It’s no joke, however, when it comes to hearing loss due to brain imbalances, which could lead to falls - especially in seniors and those who have extensive damage to their inner ear. 


According to Liberty Hearing Centers, balance-related falls account for more than half of all accidental deaths in the elderly population, causing more than 300,000 hip fractures annually in individuals over age 65.


Dr. Weigand and his associate, Licensed Audiologist Dr. Ruth Reisman, Au.D., MBA CC-A, explained the importance of hearing health to Preferred Health Magazine - providing a vast assessment of the vestibular system and balance disorders.


“The correlation between hearing and balance is within the sensory organ of the inner ear that controls both hearing and balance,” said Dr. Reisman. “There’s a hearing portion, called the cochlea (a fluid-filled, spiral-shaped cavity inside the inner ear) and the balance portion, a semicircular canal. Then, we have the vestibular cochlea nerve that controls both hearing and balance together. There are a lot of hearing disorders that impact the inner ear and the nerves - which in turn impact balance. That’s why evaluating, assessing, and treating hearing problems has been shown, in research, to improve one’s balance.”


According to the audiologists, mild hearing loss is associated with a three times greater risk of falls. The odds of falling increases two to three times in a group of older adults with hearing loss. 

In addition:

Some inner-ear disorders, like Ménière’s Disease or benign positional vertigo, have symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable to most people. Because of how they affect an individual’s ability to stand, walk, see or think clearly, read, watch television, and make decisions, these disorders are often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis and clinical depression.

For instance, head trauma and whiplash are frequent causes of dizziness.

Ear infections can also cause vestibular disorders—deterioration of brain cells and neuropathy impact hearing and processing functions. 

Furthermore, those utilizing noise-canceling headphones in public have demonstrated statistically that lack of hearing decreases awareness and can lead to accidents.

Our complex visual system plays a part as well, said Dr. Wiegand, who has been practicing audiology for over 25 years. “Your skeleton and your ears have to be in alignment and functioning well enough to work together…It’s like having a car with a low tire, it throws off the whole car function. 

“Within the cochlea (the balance mechanism), we have receptor cells called hair cells,” he explained. “Visualize blades of grass under the ocean. When a sound comes in, the fluid that surrounds those hair cells vibrates like blades of grass. Each of those little piano keys corresponds to a certain frequency. As we get older, we start to lose the function of those hair cells. They start to collapse and weaken; then we don’t have as many ‘piano-keys’, so to speak. The ones that remain have to work harder in our older age, and that leads to distortion.”


That’s why, the compassionate doctor says, correcting hearing is much different than correcting vision. “Vision is correcting or adjusting the focal lengths of what you see. Hearing is very difficult to treat when it comes to frequencies, that’s why it’s important to have a professionally managed solution.”


The solution can include a prescription for a hearing aid.


“Part of what we do as audiologists is test the brain itself with volume and word recognition,” Dr. Weigand said. “We found that in most cases, as long as you make the words loud enough, the subject gets them all right. But for those who have long-standing untreated hearing loss - no matter how loud we make the words, quite often recognition is very diminished. That’s why we support the case for the use of hearing aids; they do assist with treatment of the central system.”


Hearing aids have been shown to improve the function level of the brain. Both doctors agree that hearing devices improve one’s ability to locate where they are in a certain space. “Our ears work together to help us figure out where sounds are coming from,” said Dr. Reisman. “Not having that sense of awareness is what throws people off in terms of their balance as it relates to the ear and auditory pathways.”


Thanks to upgraded technology, you don’t have to wear your grandparents’ huge embarrassing hearing aids! Today’s modern-day, specifically made medical-grade hearing aids track an individuals’ balance - and potentially their falls. Sleek and small designs redefine the approach to hearing solutions. Some of the newest devices are equipped with technology like fall detection, telehealth services, and Bluetooth connectivity that can stream phone calls and media directly to the ears at safe decibels. 


The best way to determine if you need a hearing aid is to undergo an audiogram. The detailed diagnosis is created after a patient takes a pure-tone hearing test to map out the type, degree, and configuration of hearing loss. Audiograms reveal hearing loss by frequency, as pitch and loudness of sounds change. Frequencies are measured in hertz (Hz), and the loudness or intensity is measured in decibels (dB).


Dr. Weigand and Dr. Reisman want the public to know that, unfortunately, hearing loss is an irreparable condition. Once the mechanics of the inner ear are damaged, there is no turning back; there is no therapy that will repair hearing damage or loss. 


What about occupational hazards? The audiology team agrees - those working in chronically loud environments are more likely to put their hearing health at risk. “There are a lot of people working in loud industries who later on have hearing impairments – like musicians, police officers, and construction workers,” Dr. Reisman said. 

Shockingly, exposure to constant vibrations - like operating a jackhammer every day - can also damage one’s hearing. Dr. Wiegand claims that despite wearing earplugs and personal protective equipment, these workers experience constant sound vibration via bone conduction, which is also harmful.


Limiting your time to toxic and high decibels/intensity of sounds may be a short-term solution, but there’s no shame in having an audiology test down the line and getting an ear full from the pros!



SDr. John Weigand has been the chief audiologist at Downstate Medical Center since 2000. He is Board Certified in Audiology, a New York state-registered hearing aid dispenser, member of the American Academy of Audiology, the New York Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Dr. Ruth Reisman is a licensed audiologist and hearing aid dispenser in New York, Florida, and Bermuda, with over 12 years of experience working across multiple sectors. She currently supports the field as a full-time Professor of Audiology at the City University of New York and is recognized as a subject matter expert in assessing and rehabilitating auditory disorders throughout the age range.

You can reach their Brooklyn Heights offices, at 161 Atlantic Avenue, by calling: 718.833.5867 or 718.514.6843 Visit their website -

bottom of page