Tips on Applying for Disability with Hearing Loss

Severe hearing loss is a qualified disability under the Social Security Disability Act, but you must prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you meet all eligibility requirements in order to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The following tips may prevent you from experiencing hang-ups or common hurdles in the application process.

Is Hearing Loss a Disability?

Hearing loss is a considered a disability by the SSA and if you have severe hearing loss that makes it unable for you to work, you may be able to earn Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), losing your hearing can qualify you for financial assistance because you suffer from a disability. However, you must prove you suffer from a total loss of hearing and that your medical condition prevents you from participating in the workforce.

Hearing loss develops for one of several reasons. Damage to the inner ear caused by aging or constant exposure to loud sounds can make it difficult to hear normal conversations. Higher pitched tones become difficult to discern and you might not be able to hear conversations among background noise. A simple phenomenon such as the constant buildup of ear wax can obstruct the entire ear canal and prevent the transmission of sound waves. An acute ear infection, as well as irregular bone growth in the inner ear, can constitute deafness as well.

Knowing the answer to the question, “Is deafness a disability” depends mostly on how the Social Security Administration (SSA) analyzes your hearing loss. The federal government agency refers to a medical guide made of a list of disabilities called the Blue Book to review applications for Social Security disability benefits. Hearing loss is covered by Sections 2.10 and 2.11 of the Blue Book. A hearing test conducted by a licensed physician determines whether the severity of your hearing loss symptoms qualifies you to receive financial assistance for deafness.

Section 2.10 of the Blue Book covers the symptoms of hearing loss that are not treated by cochlear implants. Using a hearing assistance device can limit the amount of money you receive for a hearing loss disability.

How Does My Hearing Loss Medically Qualify Me for Benefits?

The SSA sets specific measurements for what it considers disabling hearing loss. The Blue Book disability listing for hearing loss outlines these requirements:

OR

  • An average hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear, documented through air condition tests AND a hearing threshold in the better ear of 60 decibels or higher, documented through bone conduction tests
  • A word recognition score of 40% or lower in the better ear, documented through tests in which a list of standardized, monosyllabic and phonetically balanced words are used.

Let your doctor know you are planning to apply for disability and ask him or her to review the specifics of the hearing loss Blue Book listing. An informed physician can ensure your medical records include the right diagnostic tests and that your hearing evaluation results are recorded in the manner that the SSA requires.

What Hearing Tests Does the SSA Require?

In addition to requiring specific results from your hearing tests, the SSA also requires your hearing tests are conducted in a particular manner and by the right person:

  • The doctor that performs your hearing exams must either be a licensed otolaryngologist or an audiologist that either holds a license or is certified by:

    or

    • The American Board of Audiology
    • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Your doctor must also perform a physical examination of your ear prior to testing and must document physical findings, including the condition of your external and internal ear, tympanic membranes, and middle ear
  • If you wear hearing aids, your hearing evaluations must be conducted without them

Confirm and Document Your Hearing Loss is Severe Enough to Prevent Reasonable Accommodations by Your Employer

Hearing loss or deafness is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers must therefore make reasonable accommodations for employees and qualified job applicants with these disability. In order to receive SSD benefits with hearing loss, you must prove your hearing problems are severe enough that they prevent you from working in any job for which you would otherwise be qualified.

To accomplish this, you must clearly document essential functions and duties of your previous jobs. You must also clearly detail how your hearing loss prevented you from performing those essential job functions, even with reasonable accommodation measures in place.

If you are able to accomplish this, then the SSA will see that your hearing loss will cause similar employment issues for you in the future. This is an essential finding for the SSA to grant you disability benefits.

 

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Hire a Lawyer

Because hearing loss and deafness are ADA covered conditions, employers must accommodate workers with these disabilities whenever possible. Getting approved for SSD benefits can be complicated by ADA considerations. Consider hiring a lawyer or disability advocate familiar with hearing impairment disability claims. An attorney or Social Security advocate accustomed to disability review processes can increase your chances of approval.