Can I get disability benefits for hearing loss or a hearing impairment?

Unfortunately, the hearing impairments listing in the blue book (listing 2.08) doesn't really say a lot that would be of much benefit to claimants. Just the same, here's what the listing says, paraphrased somewhat for better comprehension:

Listing 2.09 - Hearing Impairments (a claimant may qualify for benefits on the basis of either part A or part B criteria for the hearing impairments listing).

Part A - An average threshold of hearing sensitivity for air conduction testing of ninety decibels or more, and for bone conduction testing to corresponding maximal levels (in the better ear, of course) as decided by taking the average of hearing threshold levels at five hundred, one thousand, and 2000 hertz (hz).


Part B - Speech discrimination scores of forty percent or less in the better ear.

Now, how useful is this information for individuals filing for disability or SSI on the basis of hearing loss? Perhaps not that useful. However, let's go over a couple of things that the listing obviously says.

First, it's important to note that audiometry (audiometry is testing whereby an individual's hearing levels are tested as well as the individual's ability to discriminate between various intensities of sound and pitch) and speech discrimination testing will form the basis for a decision.

So, if a claimant has not been to an audiologist, an audiometric consultative exam will be arranged by the disability examiner working on the claim (and, of course, the exam will be paid for by the social security administration).

Second, the criteria used by the social security administration for hearing loss cases focuses on the residual functional capacity of the better ear.

What does this mean from the standpoint of an applicant for Social Security Disability or SSI? That even if your hearing in one ear is listing level, but your hearing is better in the other ear, you will not be approved for disability on the basis of meeting or equaling the requirements of this listing.

Not satisfying the requirements of this listing, however, does not necessarily that you can't be awarded disability benefits if you have significant hearing loss. It simply means that you will need to win your claim as a medical vocational allowance and your hearing loss will be considered as one of the factors satisfactorily limiting your ability to work.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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