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Does SSA Qualify Hearing Loss as a Disability?

People living with hearing loss and deafness may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits, as both are considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In order to determine eligibility, Social Security evaluates an individual’s hearing impairment in two ways: by using their listing of impairments which outlines specific test results, or by looking at whether there are any jobs that can be done with limited hearing.

To automatically qualify for disability benefits due to hearing loss (without cochlear implants), an individual must meet one of the following two tests:

  1. Pure tone air conduction and bone conduction audiometry – average threshold sensitivity for air conduction in the better ear must be 90 decibels (dB) or worse, and a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 dB or worse in the same ear. Hearing loss is calculated by averaging results at 500 hertz (Hz), 1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz; or
  2. Word recognition test – unable to repeat more than 40% of a list of standardized words spoken in a word recognition test. In any case, individuals must provide evidence of their hearing loss to qualify for disability benefits. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, including deafness and hearing loss. With the help of social security disability benefits, people living with these conditions can continue living full, productive lives.

How Do I Get Approved for Benefits with Hearing Loss?

A comprehensive hearing evaluation must be conducted by a licensed medical professional, such as an otolaryngologist (ENT) or audiologist. These tests should be completed without the use of hearing aids in order to get accurate results. The evaluation usually consists of pure tone, bone conduction, and word recognition tests. Furthermore, an otologic exam report must be written by the audiologist or ENT in order to assess and describe the condition of the external ear canals and tympanic membranes along with any middle ear abnormalities.

If there is suspicion that your hearing loss isn’t as severe as indicated by the pure tone audiometry results, you may be sent for auditory evoked response testing, which measures brainwave responses to tones. Additionally, if the bone conduction test results appear inconsistent with those of the pure-tone tests, additional testing may be required by the Social Security Administration (SSA).