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Social Security Disability and Hearing Loss

by Rachel Gaffney for Healthy Hearing

July 10, 2018 - Having a medical condition that prevents you from doing your job, meeting financial obligations and caring for your family is a stressful situation to say the least. If your hearing loss is affecting your ability to work, you may be eligible for assistance through the Social Security trust fund.

Hearing loss will not automatically qualify you for disability benefits, but if it meets certain criteria and you are no longer able to work, applying for assistance through the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help pay for medical bills, housing, credit card bills, food and other daily living expenses can help provide some added peace of mind.

Blue Book eligibility

The SSA uses its own medical guide, known as the Blue Book, to determine whether or not an applicant will qualify for disability benefits. To be approved with hearing loss, your hearing ability must meet eligibility criteria outlined in the Blue Book. Information about hearing loss eligibility can be found in Section 2.10 and 2.11 of the Blue Book.

A hearing test performed by a qualified hearing care professional will include the necessary components evaluated by the Social Security office to determine your eligibility, so the first step is to schedule an appointment at a local hearing clinic.

Section 2.10 of the Blue Book pertains to hearing loss not treated by cochlear implants. To be approved under this listing, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • An average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels (dB) or greater in the better ear and have an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 dB or greater in the better ear,
  • A word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear determined by using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllable words

Section 2.11 of the Blue Book is for people who’ve had a cochlear implant surgery. Cochlear implantation is considered a disability for one full year after surgery. After the year has passed, you can still qualify for disability benefits if you have a word recognition score of 60% or less using the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT).

The entire Blue Book is available online, so you can review your hearing loss thresholds and word recognitions scores with your hearing care provider and physician to determine if you qualify.

Other considerations for hearing loss eligibility

There are a few more things to keep in mind before applying. If you meet the above qualifying criteria but still earn more than $1,190 per month, you will not qualify for disability benefits. For example, if your employer is able to modify your job to accommodate your hearing loss, or if you’ve always worked at a job that didn’t require good hearing, you won’t be approved to receive benefits.

You also will not be approved if you only have hearing loss in one ear, even if the other ear is completely deaf since all hearing loss is evaluated using your best ear by the SSA.

Starting the process

The easiest place to apply is online through the SSA’s website. You can even save your application to be completed at a later date if you partially complete the form. If you’d prefer, you can also make an appointment to apply in person at your closest SSA office. You can call the SSA at TTY 1-800-325-0788 to make an appointment to apply in person.

For as long as you've been working, you and your employers have been paying into the Social Security trust fund through deductions from each payroll check. While most people think of Social Security only when it comes to retirement, another important purpose of the fund is to provide a "safety net" for those who cannot work because of disability. If you think you are eligible to receive this help due to hearing loss or any other disability, start the process today since it can take anywhere from three to five months to for the SSA to respond to your application.

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