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When Is Hearing Loss Considered A Disability

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Prevalence And Demographics Of Hearing Impairment

Why hearing loss is considered a disability

Prevalence of hearing loss in the United States is estimated from a number of different sources, which collect their data using varying procedures. The National Health Interview Survey , which publishes the prevalence of chronic health conditions reported by adults, estimates that 17 percent of adults in the United States, or 34 million people, indicate some hearing difficulty. The prevalence of men experiencing hearing difficulty is greater than the prevalence of women experiencing hearing difficulty, with 20.8 percent of adult men having hearing trouble compared to 14.1 percent of adult women having hearing trouble. In addition, the prevalence of reported hearing loss increases

Suggested Citation:Hearing Loss: Determining Eligibility for Social Security Benefits

with age: 8.4 percent of the population ages 18-44, 20.6 percent of the population ages 45-64, 34.1 percent of the population ages 65-74, and 50.4 percent of the population age 75 and older report some problems with hearing. These estimates include persons with conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and are not verified directly with audiometric examination.

Suggested Citation:Hearing Loss: Determining Eligibility for Social Security Benefits

and nearly 10,000 children have them . Among children receiving special educational services for hearing loss, 6.2 percent use a cochlear implant and 62.9 percent use a hearing aid for instructional purposes .

Can Hearing Loss Be Prevented

Researchers, engineers, and medical professionals from the VA are currently studying how to prevent and treat hearing loss including looking into the combined effects of aging and noise exposure which affects so many veterans later in life.

Luckily, hearing protection is now mandatory for all active-service members in all branches of the military. There are a few different forms of hearing protection available including:

  • Level Dependent Earplugs. Most traditional earplugs are effective at protecting the inner ear but interfere with mission communication requirements. They made it difficult to hear speech as well as low-level sounds essential to completing the mission. The alternative is level dependent earplugs which eliminate harmful high-frequency noises while letting essential sounds through.
3M's Combat ArmsTM dual-ended earplugs were sold to the US Military from 2003-2015 under the pretense that these earplugs were intended to allow speech through while blocking damaging high-frequency noises. Recently, it was discovered that these 3M earplugs were defective and sometimes even amplified damaging noises. 
  • Earmuffs. Earmuffs create an airtight seal around the entire ear. Theyre great for intermittent exposure or when you know youre going to be around something that can do some damage. Military grade earmuffs commonly have an electric communication system so you can still hear important commands and conversation.

About Hearing Loss In Children

Hearing is one of our five senses. Hearing gives us access to sounds in the world around uspeoples voices, their words, a car horn blown in warning or as hello!

When a child has a hearing loss, it is cause for immediate attention. Thats because language and communication skills develop most rapidly in childhood, especially before the age of 3. When hearing loss goes undetected, children are delayed in developing these skills .

Recognizing the importance of early detection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that every newborn be screened for hearing loss as early as possible, usually before they leave the hospital. Catching a hearing loss early means that treatment can start early as well and help the child develop communication and language skills that will last a lifetime .

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Starting A Disability Claim For Hearing Loss

If you don’t know whether you are eligible for Social Security disability insurance or Supplemental Security Income , you can apply for both. Call the SSA at 800-772-1213 to set up an appointment to fill out an application for disability. When you fill out your application, include both how your hearing loss affects your life outside of work and how it impairs your ability to work.

If you have both a hearing loss and another physical impairment, be sure to include symptoms of the other physical impairment as well. If you need help with the process, or if you’ve been denied, talk to a disability attorney for advice on how to proceed.

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    Is Hearing Loss Considered A Disability

    Getting VA Disability Benefits for Hearing Loss

    In the most important ways that matter, hearing impairment is generally considered to be a disability, depending on how severe the hearing loss is. Thats especially important as it relates to Social Security regulations and the Americans With Disabilities Act . Under the ADA, for example, you are granted certain protections that relate to hearing impairment disabilities. Under Social Security rules, you may be entitled to disability benefits.

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    Hearing Impairment And The Americans With Disabilities Act

    The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act .

    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.

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    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.

    So What Definition Should We Use

    Can You Win Social Security Disability if You have Hearing Loss

    Colloquially, we tend to consider individuals hard of hearing if they still retain a partial sense of hearing and deaf if they are mostly unable to hear. That mirrors, more or less, the way that the medical community categorizes hearing loss.

    Medically, hearing loss is split up into four categories: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Hearing loss reported in the severe and profound stages tends to be considered deaf by hearing professionals.

    So if you really wanted to get into categories, you could easily consider the definition of legally deaf to begin when the hearing loss in your good ear reaches a range of 70-89 dB. This is the severe category of hearing loss. Anything over 90 dB of hearing loss is categorized as profound.

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    The Costs Of Hearing Loss

    Hearing loss costs add up quickly, with medical exams, specialized tests, hearing aids and other communication assistance devices all piling on. In depth hearing evaluations, conducted by audiologists, are required to assess the degree and sometimes the type of hearing loss. Other medical exams may also be necessary to determine the root cause of hearing decline, including appointments with otolaryngologists or ear, nose, and throat specialists.

    Hearing can sometimes be improved with hearings aids. These devices average about $4,500 for a pair, according to Hearing Review magazine. Most insurance companies only cover hearing aids when hearing loss is due to specific causes. Other insurances may only cover a small percentage of the total expense. This may leave patients trying to foot the bill on their own.

    Cochlear implantation procedures are even more costly, with the Gift of Hearing Foundation reporting average costs that range from $75,000 to $125,000, dependent upon the facility at which the surgery is performed.

    Many hearing impaired workers also lose their ability to perform essential job functions. Production workers for example who have severe hearing loss cannot hear over loud equipment and/or may not even be able to safely perform their jobs any longer.

    Hearing Loss Disability Benefits

    If you have been diagnosed as having hearing loss, then there are some hearing loss disability benefits which you may be able to claim. These types of benefits largely depend on your specific circumstances and the severity of your hearing loss. If it affects your day-to-day life, then you are more likely to be eligible for financial support.

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    Using The Relay Service

    Individuals with hearing loss, including those who are deaf, now have many helpful devices available to them. Text telephones enable persons to type phone messages over the telephone network.

    The Telecommunications Relay Service makes it possible for TT users to communicate with virtually anyone via telephone through a communications assistant. Dial 711 to access all telecommunications relay services anywhere in the United States. The relay service is free.

    Signs Of A Hearing Loss Or Deafness

    Degrees of Hearing Impairment: How Severe is Your Hearing ...

    Just as with Caroline, our first grader, there will be signs that a child may not be hearing normally. Parents may notice that their child:

    • does not respond consistently to sounds or to his or her own name
    • asks for things to be repeated or often says huh?
    • is delayed in developing speech or has unclear speech
    • turns the volume up loud on the TV and other electronic devices.

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    When Your Hearing Loss Doesn’t Meet The Listing Requirements

    If your hearing loss does not meet the SSA’s disability listing for profound hearing loss, above, you still might be able to get disability if you can show that there are no jobs you can do with your amount of hearing loss.

    The SSA will consider how your hearing loss affects your capacity to communicate, follow instructions, and do various jobs. It will then assign you an “RFC,” which stands for residual functional capacity, a type of rating of the type of work you can do. In your RFC, the SSA will include restrictions related to your hearing loss on the work you can do.

    For instance, if your average hearing threshold sensitivity is 70 dB is your better ear, you can’t do work that requires good hearing and good word recognition. This would rule out work requiring communicating with the public or over the telephone or radio, or jobs that require the operation of hazardous machinery. However, the SSA could probably find other jobs you could do where hearing isn’t important. But if you don’t have the job skills or education to do those jobs, you might be able to get disability benefits based on a “medical-vocational allowance.” This is especially likely if you are older than 55.

    The SSA will still want to see various audiometry tests in your medical records, including pure tone, bone conduction, HINT word recognition tests, and caloric and vestibular function tests.

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  • Social Security Disability Eligibility For Tinnitus And Hearing Loss

    Tinnitus is a significant medical condition that may impact your ability to work. The constant ringing in your ears may interfere with your hearing, affect your concentration, or keep you from sleeping at night. While the Blue Book Listing of Impairments does not currently include tinnitus as its own listing, it may be relevant to other conditions. Additionally, you may qualify for benefits if you can prove that your tinnitus results in your total disability, is expected to last at least 12 months, and is:

    • Equal in severity to a Blue Book listing. If tinnitus has the same effect on your life and ability to work as a condition that is included in the Listing of Impairments, then you should be eligible for disability benefits.
    • Keeping you from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Tinnitus, together with all of your other medical conditions, must keep you from working. The Social Security Administration will consider your past work experience and education to determine your residual functional capacity and eligibility for disability benefits.

    Hearing loss is treated differently than tinnitus for Social Security disability eligibility purposes. The Blue Book contains two separate listings for people with hearing impairments. You may qualify if you:

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    Doj/us Department Of Education Issues A Joint Guidance On Meeting The Communication Needs Of Students With Hearing Loss

    The Rights of Public School Students to Effective Communication

    The U.S. Department of Justices Civil Rights Division together with the U.S. Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued joint guidance about the rights of public elementary and secondary students with hearing, vision or speech disabilities to effective communication. The guidance includes a letter to educators, a Frequently-Asked Questions document, and a summary Fact Sheet, and is intended to help schools, parents, and others understand schools obligations under federal law to meet the communications needs of students with disabilities. The guidance documents are available in HTML and PDF versions on The Dear Colleague Letter and Fact Sheet are also available in Spanish in PDF versions.

    To find out more about the guidance documents or the ADA, call the Justice Departments toll-free ADA Information Line at 800.514.0301 or 800.514.0383 , or access its website.

    Official Ssa Listing For Hearing Loss

    Hearing Loss and VA Disability Benefits

    The SSA’s “blue book” of impairment listings states the requirements for automatically being granted disability benefits for hearing loss. There are different requirements for those with cochlear implants and those without.

    Hearing Loss Without Cochlear Implants

    To “meet” the SSA’s listing for hearing loss without cochlear implants that is, to automatically qualify for disability benefits under the listingyou must meet either one of two tests.

    Pure tone and bone conduction 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. This represents profound hearing loss. 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 .

    Hearing Loss with Cochlear Implantation

    This SSA listing applies if you have cochlear implants in one or both ears. For one year after the surgery for implantation of cochlear implants, you are automatically granted disability benefits . After one year post-surgery, if your word recognition score on a “Hearing in Noise Test” is 60% or less, your disability benefits will be extended until your word recognition score improves .

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    When Is Hearing Loss A Disability

    Severe hearing loss can impact your life dramatically. Not only can it make it more challenging to communicate with others, but it can interfere with your professional life as well. You might be wondering: is hearing loss a disability? Depending on its severity, it absolutely can. Today, we will explore when the Social Security Administration gives a disability benefit to individuals with hearing loss.

    At what point is hearing loss considered a disability? Heres what you need to know.

    Social Isolation Loneliness And Stigma

    Impact on society and economy

    Years Lived with Disability and Disability Adjusted Life Years

    WHO estimates that unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 980 billion. This includes health sector costs , costs of educational support, loss of productivity, and societal costs. 57% of these costs are attributed to low- and middle-income countries.

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