Acoustic Neuroma and Social Security Disability

Acoustic neuroma, also known as vestibular schwannoma, is a tumor, normally benign, that grows on the nerve connecting your ear to your brain. This type of tumor does not cause cancer and is typically slow-growing. However, it can cause nerve damage as it gets larger.

Common symptoms of acoustic neuroma include:

  • Gradual or sudden hearing loss, in some cases only on one side
  • Ringing in the ear, commonly known as tinnitus
  • Loss of balance
  • Vertigo, commonly referred to as dizziness
  • Facial numbness or weakness.

The Acoustic Neuroma Social Security Disability Application Process

The Social Security Administration doesn’t have a specific listing for acoustic neuroma. However, they list “disturbances of labyrinthine-vestibular function.” Acoustic Neuroma can be classified as a “disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function.”

To qualify for Social Security Disability, you must meet the requirements of a disability listing from the Social Security blue book or provide evidence that you cannot work.

Is Acoustic Neuroma A Disability?

An acoustic neuroma is a tumor that grows on the nerve connecting your brain and ear. This nerve is the vestibular cochlear nerve and affects balance and hearing. While grows slowly, and isn’t cancerous, it can damage important nerves as it grows. If you suffer from an acoustic neuroma that is affecting you so severely that you cannot work and earn a living, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Some of the symptoms that accompany acoustic neuroma can be disabling. These usually involve balance and hearing, so you could suffer dizziness, vertigo, loss of balance, and/or unsteadiness. If the tumor grows and starts pressing the facial nerve, near the vestibular cochlear nerve, you may experience sleepiness, numbness, weakness, pain, headaches, paralysis of the face, vision problems, and difficulty understanding speech.

If the tumor grows big enough, it could increase pressure on your brain. You may become clumsy, suffer from confusion, and experience severe headaches. The increased pressure on the brain can be extremely dangerous, and immediate medical care could be required. While there isn’t a specific listing for acoustic neuroma, there is a listing that applies to “disturbances of labyrinthine-vestibular function.” This listing describes the effects of acoustic neuroma without specifically naming the condition.

To approved for disability benefits using this listing, you must have a history of balance disturbances, worsening hearing loss, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Just saying you have these problems isn’t enough. You must have supporting evidence that shows two elements that apply:

  • Disturbances with your balance must be shown by medical evidence that includes a neuro-otolaryngologic exam that includes a detailed description of how often, the severity, and the length of the balance disturbances. Suitable testing will likely be completed to demonstrate the tumor in your inner ear that is causing the disturbances with balances.
  • Your hearing loss must be supported with medical evidence that includes an auditory test.

Acoustic neuromas are not common, and they do affect individuals in different ways. However, they can be disabling. If you are suffering from severe symptoms that have left you unable to work, you will want to get your disability claim underway. The monthly benefits can help cover your medical expenses and also help you with basic living expenses while you are unable to work and earn a living.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Acoustic Neuroma

To show that you meet the qualifications to apply for disability benefits you must be able to provide medical evidence of your balance disturbance and/or hearing loss. This includes undergoing a neuro-otolaryngolgic examination that provides a very detailed description of how often, how severe, and how long these disabling episodes last. Additionally, you must provide medical evidence that your tumor exists.

You must also be able to show that you don’t have the ability to work. To do this you must provide details proving that your acoustic neuroma has affected your sensory, physical, and mental abilities:

  • Sensory abilities include your sense of touch, taste, sight, and sound.
  • Physical abilities refer to activities like sitting, standing, or walking. Physical abilities may also include pushing, pulling, carrying, or lifting an object.
  • Mental ability considers the mental processes required to perform different types of work.

Evidentiary Requirements for Social Security Disability with Acoustic Neuroma

Throughout the application process, you will have to provide the SSA with extensive information about your medical background. This may include:

  • Complete medical history of all doctor visits and/or hospitalizations
  • Results of a hearing test by an audiologist
  • Electronystagmography results that test your balance function by detecting abnormal eye movements often present with inner ear conditions
  • MRI or CT scan results that confirm the presence of acoustic neuroma
  • Records of any treatments you’ve undergone and the prognosis of your condition

Qualifying For Disability When You Don’t Meet The Blue Book Listing

If you are disabled because of acoustic neuroma but you don’t meet the criteria of the Blue Book listing that would most closely match your condition, you can still be approved for disability benefits if you show the severity of your condition. Another approach that can be used to have a claim approved is a medical vocational allowance.

When you use the medical vocational allowance, they will consider your medical conditions and symptoms along with your age, educational background, work history, transferrable skills, and other details in conjunction with your medical condition and its symptoms. All your restrictions and limitations are clearly detailed, so they can determine what you can and cannot do.

Part of the process involves the residual functional capacity (RFC). The RFC is very detailed. It will say how far you can walk – as an example, because of shortness of breath you may not be able to walk more than 500 feet. You may not be able to stand more than an hour at a time, and you may not be able to bend or squat.

The RFC will indicate if you are not allowed to be around dirt and dust or inhalants because of your breathing problems. The form is very detailed, so Disability Determination Services will get a clear picture of your capabilities and your restrictions and limitations as well.

You should ask your treating physician to complete an RFC because that will be very helpful to your claim. Your treating physician will know more about your capabilities than anyone else.

Your age, work skills, and educational background are considered to determine if you can switch professions or train for another job. If you are older than 50, your age can be very helpful to your disability claim. You are considered less likely to be able to switch professions at that time in your life. Your disability lawyer will help you gather the supporting evidence.

You will need to prepare a detailed work history that indicates where you worked, the contact information, supervisors, your job titles, and your work responsibilities. This should be very detailed so they can determine if you can return to that specific kind of work. After it has been determined you cannot do that job any longer, they will review the details to determine if you can do any other kind of job.

You want to make sure everything is very detailed and that they have enough records to fully comprehend the severity of your condition and to determine that you are not able to work and earn a living. Your disability lawyer will help you get all your records in order and determine if you need any additional testing so you can prove you are disabled and have a successful disability claim.

Why You Need a Social Security Disability Attorney

Because so many Social Security Disability claims are denied each year, hiring an experienced Social Security Disability attorney to assist with your case could greatly increase your chances of being approved.

When you retain a lawyer, you will not have to pay anything out of pocket. Instead, your lawyer will not be paid until your claim is approved. At that time, your attorney will receive 25 percent of your backpay not exceed $6,000.

To make sure your disability claim because of a disabling acoustic neuroma is on track, complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share details with an attorney who represents disabled workers in your area. Many disability claims are denied initially, so an attorney will be able to file an appeal and help you through the process.