An estimated 30 million people in the United States over the age of 12 has hearing loss in both ears, reports the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDOCD). For some, hearing aids and cochlear implants may improve hearing. For others, however, hearing loss is permanently disabling. Roughly two percent of adults aged 45 to 54 and 8.5 percent for adults aged 55 to 64 have disabling hearing loss, according to the NIDOCD.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may consider hearing loss that is profound and permanent as a disability. There are specific medical criteria you will need to meet, though. For help getting Social Security disability for hearing loss in Pittsburgh, schedule a free case evaluation with the disability attorneys at Berger and Green.
When does the SSA consider hearing loss to be a qualifying disability?
The SSA provides very detailed and strict guidelines on evaluating hearing loss as an impairment under Section 2.00 – Special Senses and Speech of the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The SSA has different criteria for hearing loss for those with a cochlear implant than for those who do not.
If you do not have a cochlear implant, you may qualify as disabled if you meet one of the following two criteria:
- Your average air conduction hearing threshold in your better ear must be 90 decibels or greater, and your average bone conduction hearing threshold in your better ear must be 60 decibels or greater; or
- Your word recognition score was 40 percent or less for your better ear, as “determined using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllabic words.”
If you have a cochlear implant, the SSA will consider you under a disability for one year after implantation, irrespective of how your hearing improves. After the one-year mark, your disability designation may continue for as long as your word recognition score is 60 percent or less, using the HINT (Hearing in Noise Test).
How does the SSA evaluate hearing loss disability claims?
When you apply for disability benefits based on hearing loss, the SSA will comb your files for detailed evidence that you meet the medical criteria.
“We generally require both a complete otologic examination and audiometric testing to establish that you have a medically determinable impairment that causes your hearing loss,” the SSA provides.
Some of diagnostics the SSA will look for to verify your disability include:
- A complete otologic examination that includes your description of how your hearing loss affects you, your doctor’s description of the appearance of your ears, tympanic membranes, and any middle ear abnormalities.
- Pure tone air conduction and bone conduction testing
- Speech reception threshold (SRT) testing
- Word recognition testing (also called ‘word discrimination’ or ‘speech discrimination’ testing)
- HINT for those with cochlear implants
What if my hearing loss does not meet the criteria?
If you do not meet the requirements under the listing for hearing loss, you can still prove yourself as disabled if you can show the SSA that your hearing loss is severe enough that it substantially prevents you from doing any jobs.
The SSA will evaluate your condition and assign you with what is called an RFC, or residual functional capacity. Your RFC rating will reflect what type of work you can and cannot do. For instance, if you have severe hearing loss, obviously, you may not be able to work at jobs requiring communication.
But if you have other skills that lend well to other jobs that do not require good hearing or if you have the capacity to learn a new job, the SSA will not deem you disabled.
Note: When determining if there are any jobs you can do despite your hearing loss, the SSA will take your age and education into consideration.
What are the other criteria for disability benefits?
In addition to proving that you either meet the listing requirements under hearing loss or have severe hearing loss that impairs your ability to work, there are several other criteria you must meet to qualify for disability benefits:
- Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last a year or more; and
- You must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity, which means your income is less than $1,130.
Also, you will need to meet certain financial or work requirements, depending on the type of benefit for which you are applying:
- SSI: Supplement Security Income (SSI) is for blind or disabled adults with limited income and limited resources. To qualify, your income must fall below the federal benefit rate or FBR which is currently $733/month, and your assets must have a value of less than $2,000.
- SSDI: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for disabled workers that have earned sufficient work credits. The number you need depends on the age at which you became disabled.
How do I improve my chances of obtaining disability benefits?
The SSA denies about 70 percent of disability claims each year. You can improve your chances of winning your benefits by gathering as much evidence as you can that proves your disability, and by having a lawyer review your application before you submit it.
A lawyer will be able to identify and mistakes, inaccuracies, or gaps in documentation that could threaten your chance for benefits, and help you gather any remaining medical data or testimonies from non-medical sources that can vouch that your hearing loss is totally disabling.
And if the SSA denies your claim, a disability lawyer will be able to help you appeal the SSA’s decision and fight for your entitlement.
Get a free consultation with a hearing loss disability lawyer in Pittsburgh.
For a free consultation with a disability lawyers Pittsburgh, call Berger and Green. We have over 40 years of experience helping people living with disabilities secure the benefits they need and deserve. (You are welcomed to watch some of our client reviews.) Contact us today and let us get started working on your behalf: 412-661-1400.