Social Security Disability Benefits for Hearing Loss

It’s not unusual for those with severe hearing loss to struggle to get or keep a job. While it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against those with disabilities, people with hearing loss often need special accommodations, and many employers simply aren’t willing to make the necessary adjustments or to invest in the resources necessary to fully accommodate the special needs of an employee with hearing loss. If you’re unable to earn a living due to your disability, then you will need to consider alternative sources of financial support and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be among them.

How Does SSD Work?

You can apply for disability either online (www.ssa.gov) or at your local Social Security office.

Eligibility for SSD is twofold. There are general and condition-specific requirements which must be met in order for you to receive benefits. General requirements include work credits accumulated over the course of your employment and having a “medically determinable” disability. Additionally, your disability must be expected to prevent you from working for a year or longer, or must be terminal.

The concept of a “medically determinable” disability means you must fully document your hearing loss when applying for SSD benefits, and your application must contain a formal diagnosis from a qualified healthcare provider. The SSA defines qualified healthcare providers for evaluating hearing loss as licensed physicians, otolaryngologists (ENT), or audiologists who are working under the supervision of an ENT.

The SSA also has a standard listing for many disabilities, including hearing loss. That listing is used by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) staff in evaluating your condition and decide if it significantly limits your ability to maintain “substantial gainful activity”, or gainful employment.

Currently, the threshold for gainful employment, as definite by the SSA, is $1,690 per month. Even if you’re able to work in a part-time or full-time job, but you earn less than $1,690 per month due to limitations caused by your hearing loss, you may still be found eligible for SSD benefits.

Eligibility for SSD with Hearing Loss

To increase the likelihood of a relatively quick and favorable determination on your eligibility, you should ensure your application is as thorough as possible. You’ll want to work closely with your doctor to guarantee your medical documentation meets the SSA’s condition-specific eligibility requirements. You may also want to consider employing legal assistance or consulting a disability advocate. A disability lawyer or advocate can help you construct your initial application effectively and can assist you in requesting a reconsideration review or filing an appeal, if necessary.

The SSA’s listing for hearing loss is clearly defined in the “bluebook”, which is the manual used by DDS staff in reviewing potentially disability conditions. Hearing loss appears in the SSA’s bluebook under section 2.00. You will also want to review the details on hearing impairments under section 2.08, as it details the specific test results and other physician-documented records required for proving disability under SSD guidelines.

SSD eligibility defines disabling hearing loss as an impairment that cannot be corrected or restored by using a hearing aid. Your hearing impairment must also meet defined severity levels. Hearing loss thresholds must be established under one of two diagnostic evaluations: Word Recognition Testing OR Audiometric Testing.

With audiometric testing, your hearing threshold must be 90 decibels or higher when measured through air conduction or bone conduction exams. Averages of three separate hearing exams are necessary, and a simple average of your hearing at 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz is required by the SSA’s guidelines.

Legal Representation

You should strongly consider consulting with a disability attorney or advocate, prior to filing for disability. Most applications are initially denied and it takes people over a year to be approved for benefits. Your attorney will help you file all necessary paperwork and represent you throughout the appeals process if your claim is denied. Disability attorneys work on a contingency basis and are not paid unless your claim is approved.

For more information on applying for SSD benefits with hearing loss, please visit: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/hearing-loss-and-social-security-disability..

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