Hearing Loss Disability Benefits
You may qualify for Social Security benefits for hearing loss disability. In order to qualify, you must provide evidence to establish a “medically determinable impairment” that is the cause of your hearing loss, based on an otologic examination. You will also need to provide audiometric measurements that establish the extent of your hearing loss.
The Otologic Examination
To determine whether you have any abnormality associated with your hearing, your doctor will perform an ostoscopic examination of your ears. An otoscopic examination is designed to ensure that there are no conditions that would impact otherwise valid audiometric testing. Examples of this could include an ear infection, an obstruction of the ear canal, or fluid in the ear.
An otologic examination must be done by a licensed medical doctor or a licensed osteopathic doctor. The doctor is required to review your medical history. He or she will also ask you to describe your hearing loss, and how it impacts your everyday life. The physician will also be expected to provide an evaluation of the tympanic membranes, an assessment of abnormalities of the middle ear, if any, and a description of the pinnae and external ear canals. To succeed in obtaining Social Security benefits for hearing loss disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires your osteopathic in his or her reporting anything he or she believes may affect the interpretation of all test results, including whether you are cooperative or not.
The Audiometric Testing
Similarly, audiometric testing must be performed by a qualified professional. This could be an otolaryngologist or one who is under the direct supervision of an otolaryngologist. A qualified audiologist may also perform the tests. For purposes of this evaluation, SSA defines “qualified audiologist” as someone who is fully and currently registered or licensed by the United States territory or the state in which the audiologist practices. If there is no registration or licensure available in the audiologist’s place of residence, a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-A) or certification by the American Board of Audiology will suffice.
Hearing Loss Not Treated With Cochlear Implantation
There are several tests that can be performed to determine if you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to your hearing loss not treated with a cochlear implant. One test involves word recognition. The other test is a test involving tone, called an air conduction hearing test.
The Word Recognition Test
During a word recognition test, you wear a set of headphones. Words are read into a microphone, which transmits the words to the headphones. You then repeats the word that was said. During this test, there is no background noise present. The words that are used are monosyllabic and phonetically balanced. If you recognize and accurately repeat only 40 percent or fewer of the words in your “better ear,” hearing loss is established.
Additionally, word recognition can include “spondee words.” Spondee words are words that are two syllables in length. Spondee words also have equal stress on both syllables.
The Air Conduction Hearing Test and Bone Conduction Test
Air conduction tests are also performed with earphones — either placed over the ear, or inserted into the ear canal. Tones are played into the headphones at various thresholds. Both pitch and volume variations are used. The test seeks to determine the softest sounds you can hear.
Bone conduction tests involve the use of a bone conduction vibrator. This is placed on the mastoid bone, which is located directly behind the ear. Sound is transmitted to the inner ear. This method bypasses the middle and outer ear.
The word recognition, bone and air conduction tests are executed on each ear separately, not together. This is to determine the level of hearing loss in the “best ear.” This testing is required to be performed in a room or booth that has been sound treated. Additionally, the testing must be performed in accordance with the standards most recently published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
During the testing, you will not be wearing your hearing aids. The otoscopic examination must be performed before the audiometric testing.
The results of the spondee word recognition test result is compared to the air tone test results. If the results are not within a predefined range, there must be a medical basis for the discrepancy. This basis must be documented in your medical records. If SSA cannot find a medical basis, they will disregard the results of these tests in determining whether you qualify for hearing loss disability benefits.
Hearing Loss Treated With Cochlear Implantation
In cases where a cochlear implant has been installed, hearing loss can be considered for disability qualification after one year. Alternatively, if more than one year has passed after initial implantation, a word recognition score of 60% or less, using a version of the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) qualifies for disability. HINT measures your ability to hear speech both when it is quiet, like the word recognition test, as well as your ability to hear in a noisy environment. In this test, you repeat entire sentences, with varying degrees of background noise.
While people who do not have cochlear implants do not wear their hearing aids during testing, those with cochlear implants have their testing done with the implant functioning. The implant must be adjusted to the normal settings and functioning properly during the testing.
Evaluation for Persons Not Fluent in English
Because the tests require listening and repeating back words, it is critical that you have a complete understanding of the language. As such, if you are not fluent in English, English should not be used for the testing. Rather, the appropriate word list should be taken from the language in which you are fluent. Additionally, the person conducting the test must be fluent in the language used for the word testing.
Since the person administering the test must be licensed or certified as detailed above, occasionally a qualified test administrator may not be found. In this case, SSA will consider other factors, such as how you communicate with interpreters, family, or other people who speak the language you feel most comfortable with.
To Learn More About Obtaining Hearing Loss Disability Benefits
To prove that your hearing loss disability qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits, you must undergo a series of tests. Speak to an attorney today by calling Palma Law Offices, P.C. at 888-295-4955.