Auditory Processing Disorder and Social Security Disability

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which is also commonly known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, is a sensory disorder that affects the patient’s ability to process auditory information. In this disorder, hearing tests come back as normal despite the fact that patient’s report difficulty hearing. The condition can cause issues with language in general, including compromising not just the patient’s ability to hear but also to listen, read, learn and communicate, especially in social or group situations.

While the Social Security Administration (SSA) has no listing for APD, it is a condition for which you may still be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, though doing so will require you to qualify under a medical vocational allowance.

Auditory Processing Disorder Symptoms and Treatments

APD causes a wide range of symptoms for sufferers. The first and primary symptom that most patients complain of is hearing loss, though auditory tests usually come back with completely normal results. Other symptoms that may be present with the condition include:

  • Difficulty listening in situations where background noise is prominent
  • Trouble comprehending phone conversations
  • Issues following directions and understanding the gist of long conversations
  • Difficulty understanding technical or unfamiliar language
  • Trouble taking notes and writing in general
  • Struggles with reading, spelling and conversing
  • Difficulty dealing with social situations and large group gatherings

As the condition typically presents with what are considered primarily psychological issues or learning deficit problems, patients are commonly treated through:

  • Environmental modification
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Brain plasticity training or auditory integration training, which are a processes by which individuals attempt to teach their brains to process information differently

As the condition also commonly causes anxiety and depression issues, patients with APD are also commonly prescribed anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications and encouraged to practice meditation and other relaxation therapy techniques.

Applying for SSD with Auditory Processing Disorder

There are no standard diagnostic evaluations or criteria associated with APD. In other words, physicians do not agree on how to diagnose or identify the condition or how to treat it. It is a difficult condition to document as a result, but the SSA still requires extensive medical records to substantiate any diagnosis on which a disability application is filed. Your medical records, including your auditory test results and neurological exams, and psychological evaluation results, are all important aspects of your SSD application.

As there is no dedicated listing for APD in the SSA’s Blue Book, to qualify for benefits when a condition is not listed with the SSA, applicants must either:

  • match another listed condition, proving through medical records and other documentation that APD is equally severe to the listed condition,
  • OR

  • have a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment that shows APD severely limits functional ability, thereby preventing gainful employment.

There are no listed conditions in the SSA’s Blue Book which closely match APD in symptoms or diagnostic means used to evaluate and diagnose the condition. For this reason, applicants for SSD benefits with APD must qualify under a medical vocational allowance following an RFC evaluation.

A medical vocational allowance essentially means that while your condition doesn’t meet or match a listed condition with the SSA it is nonetheless severely disabling. In conducting an RFC evaluation, the SSA will attempt to establish how extensive the affects of your APD limit your ability to perform normal, daily activities, including typical job functions. If your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from holding a job for which you would otherwise be qualified then you will be found eligible for SSD benefits.

Getting Help with Your Auditory Processing Disorder SSD Claim

Because auditory processing disorder is a difficult to diagnose disorder and hard to document as a result, it can be challenging to prove a disability claim based on this condition. Getting help with your SSD application from a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney is therefore advisable, as it can increase your chances of receiving benefits.

Additional Resources