Hearing Loss And Your Social Security Disability Case
It can be rather easy to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to a condition if your specific case of your hearing loss falls within the qualifying guidelines set forth by the SSA. If your condition is not as clear cut you may still be able to qualify for disability benefits but you may have to go through the appeal process in order to do so.
The initial application period takes between 90 to 120 days to complete. Only 30 to 35 percent of applications for Social Security Disability benefits are approved at this stage of the process. The remaining 70 percent of applicants must go on to file an appeal. This appeal must be filed within 60 days of receiving your determination letter.
If your application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied and you decide to file an appeal with the SSA you should consider retaining the services of a qualified Social Security Disability attorney. Having an attorney represent your interests during the appeal process and even during the initial claim will increase your chances of winning your disability claim.
Can You Receive Social Security Disability For Hearing Loss
When most people think of Social Security Disability, they generally picture people who fall into one of two categories:
- adults who are no longer able to work due to a sudden disabling injury or illness
- or people disabled at birth or in early childhood or young adulthood
However, there is a third category of people who may be eligible for Social Security Disability those who suffer from a progressive disability that only gradually removes their ability to work.
Hearing loss is not always disabling, but in some cases previously-hearing people have lost the ability to maintain employment as their hearing loss worsens.
People suffering from disabling hearing loss may qualify for Social Security Disability payments to help make ends meet.
Causes Of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of different things. Congenital defects anywhere in the hearing apparatus or brain can result in hearing loss. Infections and other diseases account for other cases. Allergies that cause fluid in the middle-ear can also result in hearing loss, if allowed to persist. Other causes of hearing loss are drugs, trauma, immune diseases, cancers, circulatory, genetic and degenerative disorders.
Most hearing loss results from problems with the cochlea or auditory nerve. This is called sensorineural. Hearing loss due to damage to areas of the brain cerebral cortex used in hearing is called central hearing loss. Hearing loss due to damage to the bones of the middle ear is called a conductive hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss means there is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing losses.
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What Percent Of Hearing Loss Qualifies For Disability
The question here is not if hearing loss has an impact on you or if hearing loss counts as a disability, but at what level does it become a disability? A lot of hearing loss is degenerative, which means that with the right kind of treatment for it, you can slow the speed or acceleration of it down. At what point, though, does it get classed as a disability? Really, it does depend which organization you are asking, as the answer can vary.
If you were looking into social security, in terms of disability benefits, then in order to be able to claim, you would need to have an average hearing rate below 90 dB, when the hearing rate is being measured by air conduction. On average, you should also be able to hear below 60 dB, when being measured with bone conduction. You would also qualify if you cant repeat 40% of words back, during a word recognition test. If you get to the point where you reach one of these thresholds, then you could qualify for things like disability benefits, with hearing loss being the cause.
Tests For Measuring Hearing Loss
There are several different ways to measure hearing loss: pure-tone air conduction testing, pure-tone bone conduction testing, and speech recognition testing. All tests are performed without the use of a hearing aid. Pure-tone air conduction testing is the most common and is generally considered the best indicator of a person’s ability to hear. This test, which transmits a series of beeps through the subject’s headphones to elicit a response, is designed to measure a person’s hearing threshold. The hearing threshold is the minimum decibel level required for you to hear a sound.
Pure-tone air conduction testing is often performed in tandem with bone conduction testing. A bone conduction test measures cochlear hearing by sending gentle electrical signals to the back of the skull through a headset. Despite the use of electrical vibrations, this test is completely painless.
Speech recognition testing is not often a part of routine audiology testing, but it can be extraordinary helpful in a disability case. That’s because it’s generally much harder for an individual to distinguish a word than it is to simply hear a tone at the same decibel level. A failure to accurately recognize speech can prevent you from performing a wide range of jobs, particularly those that require you to interact with co-workers or the general public.
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Appendix A Definitions And Technical Terms
This appendix consists of two glossaries. The first is a list of Social Security terms relevant to disability. The source is . The glossary is provided so that the reader can understand exactly how the Social Security Administration defines and uses each term.
The second glossary is a list of technical terms related to the science of hearing. The sources include glossaries from web sites maintained by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, FreeHearingTest.com, and the Hope for Hearing Foundation. Some definitions have been adapted by the committee to specifically address terms as they are used in this report.
The Costs Of Hearing Loss
The cost of hearing loss can be expensive with the costs of medical exams, extensive specialized testing, hearing aids, communication assistance devices and possible surgical procedures. In depth hearing evaluations, which are conducted by audiologists, are required to assess the kind of hearing loss and the severity of the hearing loss. Other medical examinations may be required to determine the cause of the hearing loss. You may be required to visit an otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat specialist.
Hearing aids can run as high as $4,500 per pair according to the NIH. Cochlear implants can run anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000 varying on the facility where the procedure is performed. When hearing loss occurs, the loss of work can also impact your finances as well. Learning to read lips and use sign language can also be expensive.
Even with health insurance, your out-of-pocket costs for hearing loss can run into the tens of thousands of dollars throughout your lifetime but it is dependent upon whether the loss can be corrected and which approaches will be deemed most effective.
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Medical Qualifications For Disability Benefits
The SSA uses its own guidebook of qualifying criteria, known colloquially as the Blue Book, to determine if your hearing loss is eligible for Social Security benefits. There are currently a couple of listings for hearing loss in the Blue Bookseparated by those who have been treated with cochlear implantation and those who have not.
Determining The Level Of Functional Impact
When determining which impairment rating applies to a person the rating that best describes the person’s abilities or difficulties must be applied. In applying the descriptors, each descriptor sets out how the points within it are to apply.
Under the 5-, 10- and 20-point descriptors in order to meet the descriptor in Table 11 a person must satisfy either or . To satisfy all of the sub points , and must apply to the person. Point relates to hearing function, while point relates to difficulty with balance or ringing in the ears.
To satisfy the 0- or 30-point descriptors, all of the points listed in the descriptor must apply to the person.
Determination of the descriptor that best fits the person’s impairment level must be based on the available medical evidence including the person’s medical history, investigation results and clinical findings. A person’s self-reported symptoms must not solely be relied on. It would be inappropriate to apply an impairment rating based solely on a person’s self-reported functional history if this level of functional impairment is not consistent with the medical evidence available.
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Disability Listing For Hearing Loss
The SSA’s impairment listing 2.10 states the requirements for automatically being granted disability benefits for hearing loss. To qualify for disability benefits for hearing loss , you must meet either one of the two following tests.
Audiometry. Your average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction must be 90 decibels or worse in your better ear, and you must have a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or worse in your better ear. Your hearing loss needs to be calculated by averaging your hearing at the sound frequencies of 500 hertz , 1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz.
Word recognition test. You must not be able to repeat more than 40% of a list of standardized words spoken in a word recognition test .
Pure tone, bone conduction, and word recognition tests must be completed by an otolaryngologist , a licensed physician, or an audiologist working under the supervision of an ENT or physician. All testing is done without your hearing aids in. The SSA can also send you to an audiologist for auditory evoked response testing to determine if your hearing is truly as bad as your pure tone audiometry tests indicate.
Deaf Applicants Or Those With Profound Hearing Loss Should Be Able To Qualify For Disability Benefitseither By Meeting The Ssa’s Listing Or Through A Medical
By Bethany K. Laurence, Attorney
If you have profound hearing loss or deafness, you should be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration details how significant your hearing loss must be for it to qualify as a disability that prevents you from working, and thus makes you eligible for benefits.
If your hearing loss does not meet the SSA’s published standard for profound hearing loss, you still might be able to get disability benefits based on a medical-vocational allowance, if you can show that your hearing loss reduces your capacity to work so much that there are no jobs you can do considering your age, education, and experience. However, the SSA does not usually accept that mild and moderate hearing loss affects your capacity to work since these conditions can usually be corrected using hearing aids. In addition, if you have good hearing in one ear, you won’t qualify for disability benefits.
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Is Wearing A Hearing Aid Classified As A Disability
In the ways that matter the most, experiencing hearing loss is generally considered to be a disability. This can vary, though, depending on how severe or extreme the hearing loss is. All of this is important knowledge to have, especially when you consider it and how it relates to Social Security regulations and the ADA .
Under this act, you have certain protections granted relating to hearing impairment disabilities, as it relates to employment, for example. Not only that, but according to Social Security rules, you could be entitled to claim certain disability benefits.
Cochlear Implants Will Automatically Qualify You
Deaf applicants with cochlear implants in one or both ears automatically qualify for disability benefits for one year after the implantation surgery. After that year, applicants can continue to receive Social security benefits as long as the applicant scores 60 percent or less on a “Hearing in Noise Test” word recognition test.
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The Structure Of The Ear
Our hearing apparatus consists of several structures :
- The external ear is the pinna. This may help deflect sound into the external auditory canal.
- The next structure is the eardrum. This is a thin and delicate membrane. Vibration of the eardrum by sound puts pressure on a series of three small bones in a space behind the eardrum called the middle-ear.
- The middle-ear bones transmit sound vibration from the eardrum to the cochlea in the inner ear.
- The cochlea is a spiral, fluid-filled bony structure lined with a membrane holding about 15,000 tiny hairs that move when vibrations in the fluid reach them.
- The different hairs react to different frequencies of sound. This information is coded into the auditory nerve and transmitted to both sides of the brain, though principally to the opposite side.
Figure 1: Close-up of structures of the human ear.
Treatment Will Depend On The Extent And Cause Of Hearing Losstreatment Will Depend On The Extent And Cause Of Hearing Loss
This may involve removing excess ear wax or surgery to treat abnormalities of the ear or ear bones. If the patient has frequent infections due to fluid in the ear, medications may be prescribed or tubes may be inserted in the ears. Hearing aids can amplify sound if there is damage to the inner ear and a cochlear implant can directly stimulate the hearing nerve. Conductive hearing loss often improves with medications, surgery or hearing aids, while sensorineural hearing loss benefits from hearing aids, cochlear implants and communication therapies.
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Blue Book Listing For Disability For Hearing Loss
The SSA includes hearing loss and speech impairment along with visual impairment in the same category of its Listings for disability found on its website.
How to Meet the Listing for Deafness or Hearing Impairment
In order to meet the Listing for hearing impairment, you must demonstrate by a significant, long-time history of treatment records from doctors and audiologists that certain tests have been run and that those test results fall into certain measurable ranges.
Specifically, either audiometry tests or word recognition tests must be used to document the severity of your hearing loss.
If those test results can be produced, and you are otherwise eligible for benefits, then you will be automatically approved for disability for hearing loss or deafness.
When Does The Ssa Consider Hearing Loss A Qualifying Disability
- You have an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear and an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or greater in the better ear or
- You have a word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear determined using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllabic words.
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How To Get Disability For Deafness & Hearing Loss
You can receive Social Security Disability benefits if you have a profound hearing loss. With a mild or moderate impairment, though, it is more difficult to receive benefits. If your hearing loss or impairment, regardless of how severe, prevents you from working, you need to speak to a disability lawyer today. Even if your hearing impairment does not meet the requirements from the Social Security Administration for benefits, we can potentially help you qualify in other ways.
At the Disability Advantage Group, we specialize in getting Social Security benefits for our clients, including those with hearing impairments. We have fought dozens of cases with the SSA and can anticipate their response to a variety of situations. Our experience with the disability application process gives you the best shot of winning benefits for your hearing loss.
We offer free consultations to our clients. You can sit down with an attorney, get answers to your questions, and listen to advice on your claim. Call today to learn how we can help you get disability for deafness and hearing loss.
Which Types Of Impairments Are Eligible For Disability Benefits
The SSA maintains something it calls its Blue Book of qualifying disabilities. This book lists the various medical conditions that the SSA considers disabling. If you have a valid diagnosis of a listed condition, winning benefits should be a straightforward process. If you do run into complications, our qualified attorneys can help. If your condition is not in the book, the SSA has other avenues through which you can get benefits if your case is strong enough.
The Blue Book divides disabling hearing loss into two types: non-cochlear and cochlear. This refers to whether or not you have received a cochlear implant to treat your hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Without Cochlear Implants
For those who have not had surgical implants to correct hearing loss, the determination of whether they are disabled will depend on the results of medical examinations and hearing tests. An otologic examination must be performed by a licensed physician, and it will look at a persons medical history and the ways hearing loss has affected their life. A doctor will examine the persons external ears, the eardrum, and the middle ear to look for abnormalities or issues that may affect the persons hearing.
Audiometric testing must be performed by a licensed audiologist or otolaryngologist. A persons hearing will be evaluated without the use of hearing aids. These tests will include pure tone or air conduction testing that measures how well the inner and outer ear can register sounds through the air and bone conduction testing to determine how well a person can register sounds transmitted through vibrations of the bones in the skull. Speech reception threshold testing will be used to determine whether a person can recognize at least 50 percent of the words on a standard list at certain decibel levels, and word recognition testing will determine the maximum amplification level needed for a person to identify spoken words.