In many cases, hearing loss or deafness does not affect one’s ability to work. However, it does affect one’s ability to communicate. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that people who are deaf or hard of hearing may have difficulty finding work because many employers are not willing or able to recognize the potential contributions of deaf employees. Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits and Social Security Income (SSI) are available for those with significant hearing loss or deafness. Those who have moderate or mild hearing loss are not usually eligible for SSDI and SSI.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits for deafness or hearing loss (without cochlear implants), you must have an otologic (ear) exam and have both audiometry and word recognition tests performed by an otolaryngologist (ENT), a licensed physician, or an audiologist working under the supervision of an ENT or physician. The tests must be performed with any prescribed hearing aids. Test results must show that you meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Audiometry Test: An audiometry test must show average threshold sensitivity for air conduction of 90 decibels (dB) or more in your better ear. You must also have a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels (dB) or more in your better ear. Hearing loss is calculated by averaging your hearing at the sound frequencies of 500 hertz (Hz), 1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz.
- Speech Discrimination Test: You must be able to correctly repeat no more than 40% of a list of standardized words in a spoken word recognition test.
The SSA may also send you to an audiologist for further testing. They may order auditory evoked response testing, a test which measures brainwave responses to tones, in order to determine your level of hearing loss.
Deaf applicants with cochlear implants in one or both ears automatically qualify for disability benefits for one year after the implantation surgery. After that year, applicants can continue to receive Social security benefits as long as the applicant scores 60 percent or less on a "Hearing in Noise Test" (HINT) word recognition test.
Do you meet all the requirements, but were still denied SSDI? Don’t give up. Many deserving applicants are denied the first time they apply. Our Boston disability benefits attorneys can help. Contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.