Social Security awards disability to individuals who are deaf or have severe hearing loss in both ears. However, you are likely to be denied if you don’t have the right medical evidence to support your claim.
If you are denied for your hearing loss, ask about an appeal.
At Disability Alabama, we recently helped someone with very serious hearing loss. For years they had bad hearing which had only gotten worse with time. When we met them, they could hardly hear anything at all.
Despite their severe hearing loss the Social Security Administration denied their application for benefits. Fortunately, after an appeal and a hearing we were able to change Social Security’s mind. We used recent hearing tests to show how their hearing was just as bad as they claimed. As a result, the client met a “listing” and was found disabled.
How to meet a “listing” for hearing loss
A lot of disability cases can be proven with a combination of medical and other evidence. However, to win your disability case for hearing or deafness you need have had some specific hearing tests. If the tests show a certain amount of deafness, you will qualify for a “listing.”
A “listing” is a condition that Social Security has decided will qualify you for disability if it is severe enough. Severity is measured by certain benchmarks. To meet the listing for hearing loss you’ll need to see an audiologist or otolaryngologist - doctors that specialize in hearing disorders.
Social Security’s listing have two different benchmarks. One set of rules for those with cochlear implants. Another set of rules for those without cochlear implants.
Qualifying with cochlear implants
You should qualify for a disability if you received your cochlear implants under a year ago. But that’s only temporary unless you can meet the listing after a year. After that year you can still meet the listing, but only if you have serious difficulty recognizing words. If you’re tested and shown to score at 60% or less on a qualifying word recognition test, then you meet the listing and will qualify as disabled.
Qualifying without cochlear implants
If you don’t have cochlear implants then you have to meet one of two tests. The first is to score at 40% or less on a similar test to the one for patients with cochlear implants. The second possibility is to score poorly on an air conduction test or a bone conduction test. Both tests must be performed by a qualified audiologist or otolaryngologist.
In either situation - with implants or without - Social Security will want the results for your better ear. If you only have severe hearing loss in one ear, you probably will not qualify for disability if it is based on your hearing alone.
What about other ear conditions like Ménière's disease?
There are many disorder of the ear. Hearing loss is only one of the potential impairments recognized by Social Security. If you have another ear impairment, like Ménière's disease you may qualify for disability depending on the severity and frequency of your symptoms.
What to do if you’ve been denied disability for your hearing:
- Talk to an audiologist or otolaryngologist about getting tested. Or, if you’ve already had hearing tests, get copies of the test results. Social Security will want to see them and so will your lawyer;
- Read Social Security’s own guidance on how they will consider your hearing loss;
- Use Disability Alabama’s disability calculator for an estimate of your benefit. While you do not need any special information to complete the calculation you may want to take a moment to think about your average yearly income and current household income before using the disability calculator; and
- Contact a lawyer to help you with your disability claim and appeal.