If you’ve recently been diagnosed with hearing damage or loss, it may be difficult or impossible to keep working. If your condition hurts your ability to work 40 hours each week, then you may qualify for Social Security disability payments.
The Social Security Administration keeps a list of health conditions eligible for disability benefits. Known as the SSA’s Blue Book of disabling conditions, it does list hearing loss evaluation guidelines for SSD benefits. The eligibility rules change slightly based on whether you have a cochlear implant or not. Here is an overview of what it says:
The SSA requires evidence showing that you have an impairment — measured by an acceptable medical source — that causes your hearing damage or loss. The agency also asks to review how much hearing loss you have use audiometric measurements. It focuses on your hearing ability in your better ear. This also means that if you only have hearing loss on one side, you will not qualify for SSD benefits.
What Hearing Damage Tests Will I Need to Apply for SSD Benefits?
When you apply for benefits, you will need to provide medical records showing proof of:
- An otologic exam.
- Audiometric testing to show you have a medically determinable impairment that causes your hearing damage.
Have hearing damage that is currently not treated with cochlear implants? Then the SSA says you must meet at least one of the following criteria to receive SSD payments:
- An average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels (dB) or greater in the better ear AND an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 dB or greater in the better ear, OR
- A word recognition score of 40% or less in the better ear. This is determined by a medical care provider using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllable words.
Be sure to get your audiometric testing performed by a licensed audiologist or otolaryngologist within two months of your otologic exam.
Your hearing damage medical evidence from these tests should also include the following:
1) Your medical history.
2) A description of how your hearing damage affects you.
3) The doctor or audiologist’s description of your external ears’ appearance.
4) An evaluation of your tympanic membranes.
5) An assessment of any middle ear abnormalities your doctor/audiologist noticed.
What Happens if I Have a Cochlear Implant for my Hearing Damage?
The SSA considers you to be disabled until one year after initial implantation of the cochlear implant. If you still wish to receive benefits after that year, the SSA asks that you submit to word recognition testing. Your doctor can use any version of the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) for this requirement. Your implant must be functioning properly and adjusted to your normal settings during this test. You’ll still qualify for benefits with your implant if you have a word recognition score of 60% or less.
Will I Qualify for Disability If I Still Earn Some Money by Working?
It depends on how much you earn each month. If you earn more than $1,470 per month in 2023, you will not qualify for SSD benefits. This could be the case if your employer makes accommodations for your hearing damage so you can still do your job. Or, this might be your situation if you have a job that doesn’t require hearing ability. Also, as we mentioned above, hearing damage in just one ear will disqualify you for benefits.
After recent cost-of-living adjustments of 8.7%, the maximum SSD pay amount you can receive each month is $3,627. However, on average, most people get about $1,483 in monthly SSD benefits. If you also have a spouse and child younger than 16 at home, the average SSD payment is $2,616 per month.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
If you’re unable to work due to hearing damage in both ears, then you should apply for SSD benefits. You can apply online through the SSA’s website. It is possible to partly complete the form there now and finish it later. Or, you can make an appointment to apply in person at your closest Social Security office. Call the SSA’s TTY number during normal weekday business hours: 1-800-325-0788.
Having an experienced Social Security attorney file your claim triples your odds of getting SSD benefits. We can connect you with a local expert today for free claim help by phone. People who qualify for legal help through this website usually get at least $13,000 in lump-sum back pay plus monthly benefits.
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Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.