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Facts about Tinnitus and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Tinnitus, a symptom of a variety of conditions, causes phantom (not real) noises in the ears. These noises may sound like ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, whistling or hissing, and can vary from low or high pitch.
2. Severity of tinnitus varies – some people may experience very loud noise or very quiet noise, and some may experience noise at all times or just some of the time. Tinnitus is not dangerous, but it is an annoyance and may impact quality of life.
3. Impact on quality of life may lead those with tinnitus to seek treatment for anxiety and depression, stress, irritability, fatigue, memory problems.
4. Tinnitus can be subjective or objective. Subjective tinnitus is only heard by the affected individual, while objective tinnitus can be heard by a doctor during an ear exam. Objective tinnitus is rare, and is caused by problems with muscle tissue, blood vessels or bone of the inner ear.
5. Tinnitus is most commonly caused by normal hearing loss associated with age, typically 60 years and older, noise-related hearing loss (leading to either short or long-term tinnitus), excessive build up of earwax, and bone problems, such as stiffening, in the inner ear.
6. Medications can cause tinnitus, which typically increases along with the dosage. Antibiotics, malaria medication, cancer treatments, diuretics and very high doses of aspirin may cause temporary tinnitus.
7. White males over the age of 65 are the most likely to develop tinnitus. Those who have hearing loss or have been exposed to extended periods of loud noise without protecting the ears are at a higher risk for developing tinnitus.
8. Devices that create white noise may help mask the sound. Medications such as certain antidepressants and anxiety medications may be helpful in severe cases. Sometimes alleviating tinnitus is as simple as removing earwax buildup, changing a medication, or treating an underlying condition.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Related Body System Impairments:
Blepharospasm and Filing for Disability
Glaucoma and Filing for Disability
Macular Degeneration and Filing for Disability
Meniere's Disease and Filing for Disability
Optic Neuritis and Filing for Disability
Tinnitus and Filing for Disability
Vertigo and Filing for Disability
Glaucoma, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it