If you have hearing loss and it is severe enough to meet the criteria established by the Social Security Administration (SSA) you may be eligible to receive disability benefits. In addition to being able to demonstrate that your hearing loss disability deems you unable to continue working for at least the next 12 months, you will need sufficient medical evidence highlighting the cause of your hearing loss as well as its severity as determined by a licensed physician. Follow the steps below to file your disability benefits application.
Step 1: Determine How Hearing Loss Limits You
The SSA’s examiners will want to know how your hearing loss (1) affects your ability to earn a living, and (2) how it affects your daily life activities. The bottom line for eligibility for disability benefits is that you are unable to continue working in your current job for at least the next 12 months, even if you have cochlear implantation surgery. You also may need to show that you cannot do another job for which you have training and experience in because your hearing impairment means you cannot do the job.
The SSA will also want to know how your hearing loss affects your daily activities, you’re your ability to communicate with other people and respond to situations that require normal hearing. The examiners will need this information as part of the evidence of the severity of the hearing loss impairment.
Step 2: Consult the Blue Book for Hearing Loss
The SSA’s Blue Book listing for hearing loss describes the criteria the SSA uses to evaluate symptoms and medical evidence to determine eligibility for both hearing loss with and without cochlear implantation. The Blue Book’s Section 2.00 Special Senses and Speech has two subsections that apply to criteria for hearing loss. These are:
- 2.10: Hearing loss without cochlear implantation; and
- 2.11: Hearing loss with cochlear implantation.
The two main requirements that the SSA needs before determining eligibility for hearing loss are:
- evidence of a medically determinable impairment that is the cause of the hearing loss; and
- evidence of the severity of the hearing loss from audiometric testing carried out by a licensed physician or an audiologist.
To be able to establish your inability to work, you may also need a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment carried out by your doctor. The RFC form determines what you are able to do mentally and physically and communicates how this affects your ability to continue working.
Step 3: Gather Required Documents
You will need to submit a variety of required documents alongside your claim for disability benefits. Medical documentation is only one type of evidence included in these required documents. The following documentation should also be submitted with your completed application form:
- proof of United States citizenship;
- work history, i.e. how long you have worked for each employer since your first employment. This helps to establish whether you are eligible for benefits under the social security disability insurance pathway;
- tax information to show how many work credits you have accumulated;
- evidence of your income and assets if you do not have the work credits to qualify for SSD (i.e., Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)) benefits. You might still be able to qualify for disability benefits via the SSA’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
Step 4: Speak With a Disability Attorney
Many disability benefit applications are initially rejected by the SSA, often because the documentation submitted is insufficient to convince the SSA’s examiners that the disability is severe enough to be eligible for disability benefits. A disability attorney can help you prepare your application and work with you if you need to appeal a denied application.
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