Hearing Loss and Disability Benefits
BY: Rachel Gaffney
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a monthly benefit to those unable to work for more than 12 months due to a disabling condition. If your hearing loss is keeping you from working, you may be eligible to receive these monthly benefits. If approved, disability benefits can be used for daily living needs such as medical costs, rent or mortgage, utility bills, etc.
To medically qualify, you will need to meet one of the SSA’s hearing loss listings in the Blue Book. The Blue Book is the SSA’s own guide used to evaluate Social Security applicants. There are two listings in the Blue Book for hearing loss, one with a cochlear implant or without.
If you do not have a cochlear implant, to qualify you need to:
- Have a threshold of 90 decibels or greater in your better ear
- An average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or more in the better ear
- Have a word recognition score of 40% or less in the better ear
If you do have a cochlear implant, you can qualify one full year after surgery if:
- You’re still eligible using HINT
- Your word recognition is less than 60%, you will still be eligible
The Blue Book is available online. You should review it with your audiologist to determine if you’ll qualify. Different hearing tests will be needed to be approved for benefits, so reviewing with your audiologist will help ensure you can get the proper examinations done. Keep any results and records to help support your claim.
Before starting your application, it’s important to remember that the SSA will evaluate your claim based on the hearing in your best ear. You will not qualify if you are deaf in one ear but can hear well in the other. If you use hearing aids and they dramatically improve your hearing, you will not qualify. Those who qualify are unable to hear even with the use of hearing aids or other hearing devices.
Even if you meet one of the Blue Book listings for hearing loss, you still may not be approved for benefits if you do not meet the technical qualifications. There are two types of disability benefits you may qualify for. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on household income, so even if you are unable to work but a spouse is and makes a decent income then you may not qualify.
The other type of benefit, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), is based on work credits. Work credits are obtained by paying into Social Security taxes. If you worked five of the past ten years, you will likely have enough work credits to qualify.
Starting the Application
To apply for Social Security disability benefits, you can begin the application online on the SSA’s site. This way, you can save the application if you are unable to finish it right away. You may also apply in person at your local SSA office if you prefer discussing your application with an SSA representative. To do so, make an appointment by calling the SSA at 1-800-325-0778 TTY.