If you have profound hearing loss or are completely deaf in both ears, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Your hearing loss must meet certain severity requirements to qualify. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not grant benefits for mild or moderate hearing loss.
Below, we provide an overview of collecting Social Security disability for deafness. For more information about benefits or for help with the application process, call Lunn and Forro, PLLC at 888-966-6566 and schedule a free consultation with one of our disability lawyers.
When does the SSA consider hearing loss a qualifying disability?
To obtain disability benefits, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. One way to do this is to meet the severity criteria for one of the conditions in the Listing of Impairments. There are two listings for hearing loss: one for those with cochlear implants, and one for those without.
If you do not have a cochlear implant, the SSA will deem your hearing loss a disability if you meet one of the two following criteria:
- You have “an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear and an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or greater in the better ear;” or
- You have “a word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear determined using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllabic words.”
If your hearing loss has been treated with a cochlear implant, the SSA considers you disabled for a year following the implantation. After the one-year mark, the SSA will continue to consider you disabled if your “word recognition score is 60 percent or less”, determined using the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT).
Can I still qualify for disability benefits if my hearing loss is not listing level?
If you do not quite meet the above requirements to qualify under a listing for hearing loss, you are not without hope. You may still qualify as disabled if your hearing loss is such that it prevents you from working or if you have another condition or combination of conditions that prevents you from working. For instance, if a tumor caused your hearing loss, you may qualify under a listing in Section 13.00 – Cancer of the Blue Book.
When you file an application for disability benefits and do not meet any specific listing, the claims examiner will consider your functional capacity and to what degree your hearing loss affects your ability to perform basic functions such as communicate and follow instructions. The examiner will assign you with an “RFC” or residual functional capacity rating. If your RFC rating indicates that there are no jobs you can do despite your limitations, you can still obtain benefits.
What additional criteria must I meet to qualify for disability?
You must meet the SSA’s strict criteria to qualify for disability benefits. These include the following:
- You must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled in one of the ways discussed above.
- Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last a year or longer or result in death.
- You must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity or SGA. In SSA lingo, SGA means that your monthly income exceeds $1,170/month. If you are capable of earning more than that, then the SSA will not consider you disabled.
You must also meet certain financial requirements if you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a benefit for disabled children and adults that have limited income and resources. To qualify, your income must fall below the Federal Benefit Rate and you must have less than $2,000 in assets (for individuals).
If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits rather than SSI, your assets are irrelevant. However, you will need to have sufficient work credits (that you earned from working at a job and paying Social Security taxes) on your record. The number of credits you need depends on your age.
What kinds of records and documents do I need to supply when applying?
You will need various documents and records when applying for Social Security disability benefits, such as:
- Your birth certificate;
- An adult disability report;
- Proof of citizenship;
- Proof of income;
- Proof of resources; and
- Your work history.
You will also need to provide your medical records from all the doctors that have treated you for your hearing loss and related conditions. To prove your disability to the SSA, your hearing tests, diagnoses, prognoses, and treatments must be from reliable medical sources. The more thorough your records, the better. Lack of sufficient medical evidence is the number one reason the SSA denies claims. We can ensure you have the documentation you need to prove your disability.
What if the SSA denied my disability claim for benefits for my deafness?
The SSA denies most of the disability claims it receives each year. Many denials are due to insufficient medical records, mistakes, or omissions on the application and accompanying forms, or administrative issues.
If you believe the SSA wrongfully denied your claim, call Lunn and Forro, PLLC for help appealing your claim. Our team is passionate about helping people living with disabilities and giving them a voice in a system that is all-too-often cold and uncaring. We have helped thousands of people in Raleigh navigate the disability application and appeals processes.
We must act fast because you only have 60 days from the date you received the letter of denial in the mail to notify the SSA that you want to appeal its decision. Contact our firm in Raleigh today at 888-966-6566