If you have suffered from hearing loss and it is impacting your ability to work, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. In order to even be considered eligible for benefits, you must have worked long enough to have paid enough credits in to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and you must have paid enough taxes in to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
SSDI benefits are eligible for profound hearing loss of deafness, but not for hearing loss that is considered mild or moderate. The SSA details how significant your hearing loss must be in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. You may qualify for SSDI benefits because of severe hearing loss even if your hearing loss may correctable with a cochlear implant even if you decide to not undergo surgery.
According to the National Institute of Center for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are more than 37 million American adults experiencing some kind of hearing loss. Approximately one-fourth of the adults older than 65 experience disabling hearing loss. The numbers are lower with younger groups, and some 60,000 U.S. adults have undergone cochlear implantation.
While cochlear implantation may make an impact on your hearing loss, it is an expensive venture and not all insurance policies cover the procedure. Some individuals may opt out of getting the procedure for various reasons, including the expense.
The Costs of Hearing Loss
The cost of hearing loss can be expensive with the costs of medical exams, extensive specialized testing, hearing aids, communication assistance devices and possible surgical procedures. In depth hearing evaluations, which are conducted by audiologists, are required to assess the kind of hearing loss and the severity of the hearing loss. Other medical examinations may be required to determine the cause of the hearing loss. You may be required to visit an otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat specialist.
Hearing aids can run as high as $4,500 per pair according to the NIH. Cochlear implants can run anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000 varying on the facility where the procedure is performed. When hearing loss occurs, the loss of work can also impact your finances as well. Learning to read lips and use sign language can also be expensive.
Even with health insurance, your out-of-pocket costs for hearing loss can run into the tens of thousands of dollars throughout your lifetime but it is dependent upon whether the loss can be corrected and which approaches will be deemed most effective.
Medically Qualifying for Benefits for Loss of Hearing
Most people that receive SSDI benefits for hearing loss do so because they meet the SSA’s disability listings in the Blue Book, which is the SSA medical guide for determining what classifies as a full and permanent disability. Hearing loss applicants can qualify for benefits under two different Blue Book listings.
Hearing Loss (2.10) requires:
- An average threshold for hearing of 60 to 90 decibel or greater in the good ear and it is dependent upon the kind of testing used.
- Word recognition score of lower than 40 percent in the better ear.
Hearing Loss with a Cochlear Implant (2.11) requires:
- Automatically qualifies on a medical level for disability benefits for a minimal period of at least one-year following the surgical procedure.
Therefore, if you suffer from severe hearing loss you may be eligible to receive SSDI benefits. If you are eligible for benefits, some of your dependents may also be eligible to receive benefits under your claim as well.
The SSDI process involves detailed documentation from your doctor, including all notes, details from procedures, test results and evaluations and any corrective measures you have taken in an effort to restore hearing. It also involves how the cause of hearing loss was determined and if the cause impacted more than just your hearing as well.
It is also important to note that, if you have an additional condition (e.g., diabetes, Meniere's disease, etc.) alongside your hearing loss, you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits more easily. For more information on qualifying conditions, check out this helpful guide: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?
Qualifying for Disability without Meeting a Listing in the Blue Book
Just because your hearing loss does not meet the SSA Blue Book listing guidelines does not mean that you cannot be approved for SSDI benefits. You can still qualify for SSDI by meeting the requirements of a residual functioning capacity form (RFC). This is a detailed form completed by your physician that explains how your ability to work has been impacted by your hearing loss.
Using the RFC for the medical vocational allowance listing, the SSA looks at your age, your educational level, job skills, any training, work history and any other factors that can determine what kind of work for which you are qualified and if you can transition over to some other kind of employment.
Disability Determination staff will use the RFC and any medical records to complete a comparison to determine any daily limitations in regards to normal tasks such as buying groceries, cleaning your home, preparing meals, running errands or even participating in hobbies or caring for your pets.
As an example, if you have predominantly worked in a retail setting and have experienced severe hearing loss, you will be unable to effectively communicate with your customers. In this situation the RFC may be deemed sufficient in helping you to qualify for SSDI benefits.
The SSDI approval process can be lengthy and may involve multiple denials and appeals. In some instances, it may have to go before an administrative law judge who will make the determination as to whether or not you are considered legally and permanently disabled per the SSA guidelines.
Applying Specific Medical Tests to Your Case
There are several medical tests that may be required by the SSA before your SSDI case for hearing loss can be approved. They may ask for audiometry results, HINT or HINT-C word recognition measures, bone and/or air conduction results and calcoric or other vestibular testing.
Even with your medical records and test results, the SSA may order a medical evaluation at their expense to determine the severity of your condition. They can also order a mental evaluation to determine if the situation has made you depressed, stressed or emotionally distressed and if that also impacts your ability to work.
Submit as much medical evidence as you possibly can with your disability application. The more evidence that you provide, the higher the chance of being approved for benefits. After you have been approved for benefits, you can focus on your recovery.
Hearing Loss and Your Social Security Disability Case
It can be rather easy to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to a condition if your specific case of your hearing loss falls within the qualifying guidelines set forth by the SSA. If your condition is not as clear cut you may still be able to qualify for disability benefits but you may have to go through the appeal process in order to do so.
The initial application period takes between 90 to 120 days to complete. Only 30 to 35 percent of applications for Social Security Disability benefits are approved at this stage of the process. The remaining 70 percent of applicants must go on to file an appeal. This appeal must be filed within 60 days of receiving your determination letter.
If your application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied and you decide to file an appeal with the SSA you should consider retaining the services of a qualified Social Security Disability attorney. Having an attorney represent your interests during the appeal process and even during the initial claim will increase your chances of winning your disability claim.