If you or someone you love experiences hearing loss, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly financial resources to people who are unable to work due to a disability. If your hearing loss is preventing you from maintaining employment, you may qualify for assistance.
Medical Qualifications for Disability Benefits
The SSA uses its own guidebook of qualifying criteria, known colloquially as the “Blue Book,” to determine if your hearing loss is eligible for Social Security benefits. There are currently a couple of listings for hearing loss in the Blue Book—separated by those who have been treated with cochlear implantation and those who have not.
Qualifying Without a Cochlear Implant
If you haven’t received a cochlear implant, you have two ways of qualifying. The first is if you have an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear as well as an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or greater in the better ear.
You can also qualify if you have a word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear, which will be determined by using a standardized list of phonetically balanced, single-syllable words.
Qualifying with a Cochlear Implant
If you’ve had cochlear implant surgery, you’ll automatically qualify to receive benefits for at least 12 months following the procedure. After 12 months have passed, you can continue receiving disability benefits if you have a word recognition score of 60 percent or less, determined by using the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT).
You may not know what your hearing threshold is or your HINT score without first speaking with your audiologist. Fortunately, the entire Blue Book is available online. You can review the listings for hearing loss and determine if you will medically qualify at your next doctor’s appointment.
A Caveat with Hearing Loss Applications
Keep in mind that hearing loss applicants often have a challenging time qualifying, as many remote or office jobs can be performed with moderate to severe hearing loss. There are a few factors that could help your claim:
- Older applicants are approved more often. If you’re over age 50, the SSA will not expect you to jump careers and find a desk job if you have no relatable skills or experience.
- If you have a job that requires hearing, you’ll have better odds of qualifying. Police officers, pilots, and construction workers are all great examples of people who have an easier time getting approved.
- If you don’t have a college degree, you may be more likely than someone who does have a degree and is able to work in a variety of fields. People with specialized training or a limited work history have better chances of approval.
Starting Your Application
The easiest way to apply for disability benefits is online on the SSA’s website. If you’d prefer, you can also have a Social Security representative help you at your closest Social Security office. Call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 TTY to get started. It usually takes three to five months to hear back regarding your claim.
Helpful Links & Resources:
This article was created by Disability Benefits Help, an independent organization dedicated to assisting people of all ages receive the Social Security disability benefits they need. If you have any questions on qualifying for disability benefits with hearing loss, or the Social Security disability application process in general, feel free to reach out to their team at firstname.lastname@example.org