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Disability Benefits for Hearing Loss

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders and the National Institutes of Health, more than 37 million adults in the United States suffer some kind of hearing loss.  Although it stands to reason that many of these individuals may apply for disability benefits through Social Security Administration (SSA), simply experiencing hearing loss will not qualify you for benefits.

In order to qualify for benefits on the basis of your hearing loss, you can do so by meeting the blue book listing standard for profound hearing loss.  You should be able to qualify for benefits if you have profound hearing loss or deafness.  If you have good hearing in one ear, however, you will likely not qualify.

The listing for hearing loss that has not been treated by cochlear implants requires that you meet one of the following: 1) an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better of two ears; or 2) a word recognition score of 40% or less in the better of two ears as determined by using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllable words.

The listing for people who have had cochlear implant surgery is different.  Cochlear implantation is considered a disability for one full year after surgery.  After the first year, you can still qualify for benefits if you have a word recognition score of 60% or less using the Hearing in Noise Test.

If you do not meet the listing, you can try to prove your disability under the medical-vocational allowance.  In this case, you may be able to qualify if you can show that your hearing loss is so substantial that it reduces your capacity to work so much so that there are no jobs you can perform when taking into consideration your age, education, and experience.

If you go the medical-vocational allowance route, be advised that SSA does not often accept that mild or moderate hearing loss will make it impossible for you to work because these levels of hearing loss can usually be corrected with hearing aids.

Regardless of which method you choose, SSA will require you to undergo a physical examination by an ear, nose, and throat specialist or licensed physician to determine whether your condition is temporary, such as fluid buildup, wax buildup, a ruptured eardrum, or ear infection.

SSA will also require a documented audiometric test performed by a licensed audiologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist.  If the results of these tests do not satisfy SSA’s requirements, SSA will pay for you to visit an additional ear, nose, and throat specialist for further testing.  And if SSA does not believe that your hearing loss is as substantial as you say it is, it may require you to have an auditory evoked response test, which measures your brainwave responses to specific tones.