Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits for a Hearing Impairment?
To determine whether you are disabled at Step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the Social Security Administration will consider whether your hearing impairment is severe enough to meet or equal the hearing impairment listing. The Social Security Administration has developed a set of rules called Listing of Impairments for most common impairments. The listing for each impairment describes a degree of severity that the Social Security Administration presumes would prevent a person from performing substantial work. If your hearing impairment is severe enough to meet or equal the hearing impairment listing, you will be eligible for disability benefits.
The listing for a hearing impairment is 2.08, which has two parts: A and B. You will be disabled if you meet either part A or part B.
Few people have hearing loss severe enough to qualify under this listing. Profound deafness is required.
Social Security Administration Testing Criteria for the Hearing Impairment Listing
Evaluation for a hearing impairment is based on the best-correctable hearing, which means best-correctable in the better ear. Even if you appear to be meet the hearing loss severity for the listing, but there is a possibility that hearing aids will significantly improve your hearing, then the listing requires that such testing be carried out.
Since the listing criteria are generally based on how you hear with a hearing aid, the Social Security Administration usually needs the results of hearing testing performed with a hearing aid in place.
However, testing can be done without a hearing aid, if in the better ear there is:
- A profound loss of hearing (both air conduction and bone conduction threshold sensitivity are at the levels in Listing 2.08A) and speech discrimination scores are at the level in Listing 2.08B.
- A profound loss of hearing (both air and bone conduction threshold sensitivity are at the levels in Listing 2.08A), and speech discrimination testing could not be completed due to the high decibel level needed.
- A profound loss of hearing (both air and bone conduction threshold sensitivity are at the levels in Listing 2.08A), and the evidence shows the treating source no longer conducts speech discrimination testing due to the high decibel level needed or the individual’s inability to communicate effectively.
Also, to be tested without a hearing aid it is helpful to show history of having attended a special school for the deaf along with development and use of sign language to communicate.
If you have your own hearing aids, testing can be done with those aids. However, claimants frequently come to examinations with hearing aids that do not function, or that are of poor quality by current standards of performance. In these cases, the Social Security Administration performs further evaluation at government cost. You may have to go to three different appointments: (1) the initial ear examination and testing without a hearing aid; (2) an appointment with the audiologist for creation of a hearing aid mold that fits your external ear canal size and shape; and (3) an appointment to measure aided hearing using a state-of-the-art hearing aid in the mold.
Profound deafness in one ear, with or without a hearing aid, is a slight (not severe) impairment if the other ear retains good hearing. With good hearing in one ear, there is never a need to test for improvement with a hearing aid in the hearing-deficit ear.
Meeting Social Security Administration Listing 2.08A for a Hearing Impairment
We can hear sound conducted either through the air or through the bones of our skull. Both types of hearing are tested by audiometry in pure tone adult claims.
To meet the Social Security Administration Listing 2.08A for a hearing impairments the hearing loss (even with a hearing aid) must be shown by an average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction of 90 decibels or greater, and for bone conduction to corresponding maximal levels, in the better ear, determined by the simple average of hearing threshold levels at 500, 1000, and 2000 hz.
The audiologist who tests your hearing gradually varies the particular sound intensity (decibel level), until you state that you can hear the tone half of the time. This is the pure tone threshold sensitivity at a given frequency for you to be aware that there is a sound.
The Social Security Administration does not consider all frequencies of sound that are a normal part of hearing. It only considers the range of frequencies that are most important in perceiving speech sounds in regard to functional, everyday communication. Test frequencies used by the Social Security Administration in adult claims are 500, 1000 and 2000 cycles per second (Hertz). Only these frequencies of sound are used for calculation, even if medical evidence contains reports of the ability to hear other frequencies.
In evaluating the audiometric report, the Social Security Administration averages the intensity of sound necessary to hear at each of these frequencies. This average is calculated separately for hearing through air and through bone. The final average must not be lower than 90 decibels necessary for you to hear sounds in the air, and not lower than a “corresponding level” necessary of bone conduction (i.e., about 65 decibels). Bone conduction is measured through the mastoid bone behind the ear. All of this data is plotted out on audiometric charts, for the Social Security Administration’s independent evaluation. The Social Security Administration will not accept conclusions from treating or consultative examination sources as a substitute for the actual evidence derived from testing.
The Social Security Administration will do its evaluation based on how much hearing defect there is in the better ear. In other words, you could be totally deaf in one ear and you would still have to be deaf enough in the other ear, despite use of a hearing aid (when appropriate) to qualify under the listing.
Meeting Social Security Administration Listing 2.08B for a Hearing Impairment
The speech discrimination in the better ear is used to decide if disability benefits
will be awarded.
To qualify, you must have a speech discrimination score equal to or less than 40%.
If you have poor speech discrimination at the listing-level, then you will most likely also have at least a moderate to marked degree of pure tone deafness.
Go back to About Hearing Impairments and Disability.