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Social Security and Hearing Loss

Claimants who have a severe hearing loss may be able to qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income if they meet very specific requirements as defined by the Social Security Administration, and they can prove that their condition is so severe that it prevents them from working and performing substantial gainful activity.

Proving disability for  hearing loss


First, the SSA expects that you will have medical evidence that conclusively shows that you have a severe hearing loss, including audiometric measurements. According to the Social Security Administration they will generally require both a complete otologic examination and audiometric testing. The SSA also states that the “audiometric testing should be done within 2 months of the complete otologic examination.”

The otologic examine must be performed by either a medical or osteopathic doctor who is licensed. The SSA also states that they need “your medical history, the affects of your hearing loss, a description of the appearance of the external ears and ear canals, an evaluation of the tympanic membranes, and assessment of any middle ear abnormalities.”

If you cannot afford the appropriate testing the Social Security Administration will generally pay for you to visit the appropriate specialist to have the testing done. Testing is done without the use of hearing aids.

Meeting a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments for Hearing Loss


The Social Security Administration maintains a list of all the conditions and symptoms which it considers automatically disabling. Hearing loss is listed under 2.00 Special Senses and Speech, Section 2.10 Hearing loss not treated with cochlear implantation and 2.11 Hearing loss treated with cochlear implantation.

To meet the listing for 2.10 Hearing loss not treated with cochlear implantation, according to the SSA you must 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 a word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear as determined using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllabic words.”

To meet the listing for 2.11 Hearing loss treated with cochlear implantation, the SSA will only “consider under a disability for one year after initial implantation or of more than one year after initial implantation if the claimant has a word recognition score of 60 percent or less as determined using the Hearing in Noise Test.”

What if my hearing loss does not meet a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments?


Some claimants will have severe hearing loss but it may not meet or exceed the listing as defined by the SSA. If your hearing loss does not meet the SSA standard you may qualify for disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance if you can prove that your hearing loss lowers your functional capacity to perform work activities and you are not able to work your current job, your previous job or retrain for new work.

The Social Security Administration will consider not only your hearing loss condition but also your age, education, and previous work experience to determine if you could perform substantial gainful activity. Claimants who are older than 55 years of age, who have less than a high school education and who do not have any transferable work skills will have the best chance of winning disability benefits for hearing loss through a medical vocational allowance.

Mild or minimal hearing loss which can be easily corrected with a hearing aid or hearing loss in one ear generally will not be sufficient to win benefits.
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