When you experience unexpected and significant hearing loss, the impact goes beyond the emotional. Your ability to work can be limited and even eliminated entirely depending on your skillset, creating tremendous financial pressure. Financial demands also exist if your child is born with a hearing impairment or experiences hearing loss later on. Your child will need special education opportunities, medical treatment and, if applicable, assistive devices to improve their hearing.
Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has disability benefits available for those who have experienced hearing loss, provided they meet certain medical and financial eligibility requirements. These monthly cash payouts can help stabilize individual or family finances and cover the cost of treatment.
What disability benefits are available?
The SSA has two benefits programs that provide people with disabilities with financial support and access to medical care. Each one serves a different need but both will pay monthly benefits to those who meet the medical criteria.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This benefits program is intended for employees who are disabled and their families. To qualify, you must have worked for a certain number of years and paid Social Security taxes, which funds SSDI. So long as you’ve worked at least part-time throughout adulthood, you’ll almost certainly qualify for SSDI.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI benefits are for people whose means are limited, such as children and the elderly. When an application is made on behalf of a child, the financial situation for his or her parent(s) will be reviewed. Once your child turns 18, he or she may apply on their own, and may even have a much higher chance of qualifying.
How to medically qualify for disability benefits with hearing loss
To qualify for disability benefits, an applicant must meet a listing in the Blue Book, which is the official SSA catalog of eligible conditions and their criteria. It is divided into two sections: One for adults and the other for children, which in turn are split for applicants with and without cochlear implants.
Hearing loss in adults
For adults, hearing loss is addressed in Listing 2.00: Special Senses And Speech. For an adult to qualify for hearing loss without cochlear implants (Listing 2.10), you must meet one of two tests.
- Air and bone conduction audiometry. Your average threshold for air conduction in your better ear must be 90 decibels or worse and your bone conduction hearing threshold in the same ear has to be 60 decibels or more OR
- Word recognition. You must not be able to repeat more than 40% of words spoken using a phonetically balanced list of words.
If you have cochlear implants, you will automatically be considered disabled and receive benefits for one year after the surgery. After one year, your benefits will be extended if your word recognition score on a "Hearing in Noise Test" (HINT) is 60% or less.
Hearing loss in children
Hearing loss in children is covered in Listing 102.00: Special Senses And Speech. For children to qualify, like adults, they are evaluated according to whether or not a cochlear implant is in place. Until they are five, children must experience an average air conduction hearing threshold of 50 decibels or greater in their better ear. Between the ages of five and 18, the criteria changes to:
- 70 decibels or more in an air conduction test OR
- 50 decibels or more in an air conduction test and a discernible limitation in speech or language
- A word recognition score of 40 percent or less
Information regarding children and disability benefits
If a child has received a cochlear implant, he or she is considered disabled until age five or one year after surgery, whichever is later. If a word recognition score of 60% or less is determined using the HINT post-surgery, your child will remain on benefits.
When you apply for benefits, either for yourself or on behalf of your child, you will need to supply proof of hearing loss in the form of tests completed by a doctor, ideally an otolaryngologist or an audiologist. If you are applying for SSI, an SSA representative will have to interview you or your child to determine whether or not your household income is low enough to qualify for SSI.
Receiving disability benefits without meeting a listing
If you don’t meet a Blue Book listing, you may still be eligible for disability benefits under a medical vocational allowance. These allowances are intended for those who are too disabled to work but do not meet a listing.
For more information about how to qualify for SSA disability benefits with hearing loss, visit the SSA’s website, visit your local SSA office, or call 1-800-772-1213. Receiving benefits will give you and your loved ones the financial means to pay for care without compromising your standard of living.
For more information on hearing loss
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