When does the SSA consider hearing loss a qualifying disability?To obtain disability benefits, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. One way to do this is to meet the severity criteria for one of the conditions in the Listing of Impairments. There are two listings for hearing loss: one for those with cochlear implants, and one for those without. If you do not have a cochlear implant, the SSA will deem your hearing loss a disability if you meet one of the two following criteria:
- You 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
- You have “a word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear determined using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllabic words.”
Can I still qualify for disability benefits if my hearing loss is not listing level?If you do not quite meet the above requirements to qualify under a listing for hearing loss, you are not without hope. You may still qualify as disabled if your hearing loss is such that it prevents you from working or if you have another condition or combination of conditions that prevents you from working. For instance, if a tumor caused your hearing loss, you may qualify under a listing in Section 13.00 – Cancer of the Blue Book. When you file an application for disability benefits and do not meet any specific listing, the claims examiner will consider your functional capacity and to what degree your hearing loss affects your ability to perform basic functions such as communicate and follow instructions. The examiner will assign you with an “RFC” or residual functional capacity rating. If your RFC rating indicates that there are no jobs you can do despite your limitations, you can still obtain benefits.
What additional criteria must I meet to qualify for disability?You must meet the SSA’s strict criteria to qualify for disability benefits. These include the following:
- You must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled in one of the ways discussed above.
- Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last a year or longer or result in death.
- You must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity or SGA. In SSA lingo, SGA means that your monthly income exceeds $1,170/month. If you are capable of earning more than that, then the SSA will not consider you disabled.
What kinds of records and documents do I need to supply when applying?You will need various documents and records when applying for Social Security disability benefits, such as:
- Your birth certificate;
- An adult disability report;
- Proof of citizenship;
- Proof of income;
- Proof of resources; and
- Your work history.