Did you know that by the young age of 54, two percent of people have hearing loss bad enough to qualify as a disability? That jumps to 8.5% by 64. By 74, that’s 50%.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 billion young adults put themselves at risk of permanent hearing loss by their listening practices. But this goes far by listening to music too loud with earbuds.
Workplace noise is a major cause of disabling hearing loss, with 18% of people who work a noisy job having speech-frequency hearing loss compared to 5.5% of the general population.
This makes hearing loss the #1 disability in the US. This may qualify you for certain accommodations at work and, in some cases, social security disability benefits. Here’s what to know.
How Does Social Security Define Hearing Loss as a Disability?
To determine if you meet the criteria, the SSA requires that you have the following tests on each ear in a sound-treated booth while not wearing your hearing aids:
- Pure tone air conduction
- Bone conduction
- Speech reception threshold (also called spondee threshold)
- Word recognition
As your audiologist, I must also perform a visual inspection of your ear canal before testing to make sure temporary blockages aren’t impacting the test.
You may qualify for hearing loss-related disability if one of the following applies:
- An average hearing threshold of 90 decibels or higher and bone conduction of 60 dB or higher. That basically means you still wouldn’t hear me if I were yelling right next to you.
- Less than 40% word recognition in your better ear.
That second one is much more likely to qualify your hearing loss as a disability.
Work Accommodations for Those with Hearing Loss as a Disability
Even if you don’t qualify for disability, you may qualify for reasonable work accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The goal of ADA for hearing loss is to make sure you can still communicate effectively on the job.
Depending on your level of hearing loss, the ADA lists several possible accommodations like:
- Providing meeting notes in writing
- Real-time captioning for videoconferencing, training videos, etc.
- Hearing-aid compatible telephones
- Text telephones (TTYs)
- Telephone headset amplifiers
- Educate staff on the do’s and don’t’s when communicating with someone with hearing loss…without singling you out, of course.
Reducing Your Disability from Hearing Loss
Accommodations can help you perform well at your job. But for many of the above solutions to work, you’ll need to hear at your best.
When you see me to determine if you may meet the criteria for hearing loss as a disability, I can evaluate your current hearing aids.
Maybe you’ve had them for many years, and they’re no longer meeting your needs.
I can often adjust them to align with your current hearing or offer you better hearing solutions that may not have been available when you first started wearing a hearing aid.
To learn more about your hearing loss as a disability, please schedule a hearing evaluation.