Is Hearing Loss Considered a Disability?


Is Hearing Loss a Disability or A Disorder?

Hearing loss can be classified as both a disability and a disorder, depending on the context and severity of the condition.

Hearing loss is a disability that affects the ability to communicate, function, and participate in various aspects of life. It can create barriers in education, employment, social interactions, and daily activities. In such cases, accommodations and support may be needed to ensure equal opportunities and access to services.

On the other hand, hearing loss can also be seen as a disorder. A medical condition that affects the auditory system. Treatment options, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, are often available to manage or improve hearing loss.

This article will discuss hearing loss as a disability and how it impedes a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Treatment options for hearing loss can go only so far as to help mitigate the hearing loss. The real questions are, how can a person with hearing loss find the support they need to access these treatment options and other services? Is there a way for them to have an equal opportunity for gainful employment and a chance at living a fuller life?

Can a Person with Hearing Loss Qualify for Disability Benefits?

Yes, a person with hearing loss may qualify for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a listing for hearing loss in its Blue Book. 

This Blue Book outlines the criteria for disability eligibility. The severity of the hearing loss must meet specific requirements for that person to qualify. An example would be having an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear.

A disability applicant must meet the specific criteria to receive disability benefits. That is, her or his hearing loss has impaired her or his ability to communicate and function in daily activities. Then, each case will be evaluated individually. 

At What Percentage or Level Can Hearing Loss Be Considered a Disability? 

Hearing loss is a disability when it affects a person’s ability to communicate. When it hinders a person’s ability to understand speech and interact with others. 

Eligibility for hearing loss disability is determined by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO provides general guidelines that are adopted by many countries. One of these guidelines suggests that a hearing impairment of 40 decibels (dB) or greater in the better ear is the minimum threshold to label it a disability. 

However, the exact percentage or level at which hearing loss is designated a disability can vary. They can depend on local laws, regulations, and definitions of disability. Just as suggested by SSA’s minimum threshold compared to WHO’s. Other states may consider a conduction hearing threshold of 60 dB. Still others, adhere to the 40 to 60 dB range. To know more, visit your professional audiological services. They may be able to direct you to legal authorities or professionals for accurate and up-to-date information.

Is Hearing Loss Still Considered a Disability If a Person Wears Hearing Aids or Cochlear Implants? 

Yes, hearing loss is still treated as a disability even if a person wears hearing aids or implants. These assistive devices can improve a person’s ability to hear and communicate. But they do not fully restore hearing to normal levels. This is the basis for calling hearing loss a disability. 

The use of assistive devices does not eliminate the challenges and limitations that people with hearing loss may face in daily life. Therefore, hearing loss remains classified as a disability, regardless of the use of such devices.

What Are the Steps for Medically Qualifying for Benefits for Hearing Loss?

The steps for medically qualifying for benefits for hearing loss depend on the specific program or organization. So, be sure to get the complete process from the organization you are seeking benefits. However, the general process typically involves the following steps:

1. Diagnosis: Get a formal diagnosis of your hearing loss. You can get this from professional audiological services, such as an audiologist or a hearing care specialist.

2. Medical Records: Gather your medical records. Don’t forget to include test results and audiograms. You need to bring any other relevant documentation that supports your hearing loss diagnosis, too.

3. Consultation: Schedule a consultation with an independent medical examiner. For your case, set an appointment with one that specializes in evaluating hearing loss cases.

4. Functional Evaluation: Undergo a functional evaluation. This type of evaluation assesses the impact of your hearing loss on your daily life and ability to work. It may involve various tests to determine your hearing impairment. It will also gauge your speech recognition and communication difficulties.

5. Treatment Options: Provide information about the various treatment options you have tried. Treatment options will include the devices you used. These may include hearing aids, cochlear implants, or assistive listening devices.

6. Documentation: Collect documentation about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the treatments you have tried.  Include the reports and diagnoses from your doctors or audiologists.

7. Submitting a Claim: Complete and submit the necessary application or claim forms. These forms are provided by the relevant benefits program or organization. Don’t forget to include all required documentation and medical records. Please include any supporting statements from your healthcare providers.

8. Review Process: The benefits program or organization will review your application. They will also review your medical documentation. These will be done to determine if you meet their specific criteria for benefits. This may involve a review by a medical professional or a panel of experts.

9. Decision: You will be notified of the decision regarding your benefits application. If approved, you will receive information on the benefits you are entitled to and how to access them. If your application is denied, you may have the option to appeal the decision.

It is important to remember that these steps and requirements are a general guide. They can vary depending on the specific benefits program or organization. So, it is advisable to consult their guidelines and seek assistance if needed.

Who Can You Approach for Help in Applying for Disability Benefits for Hearing Loss?

There are several professionals who can assist you in applying for disability benefits for hearing loss. They include:

1. Social Security Administration (SSA): The SSA reviews and processes all social security disability benefit applications. Getting into the SSA’s disability listings isn’t exactly easy as they are the primary agency that handles disability claims. However, they have expertise and personnel who can guide you through the application process. They can also help provide information on the necessary documentation and requirements.

2. Disability Advocates or Attorneys: A disability advocate or attorney who specializes in disability claims can greatly help you navigate the application process. They are knowledgeable about disability laws. They can provide guidance, prepare your application, and represent you if your claim is denied and you need to appeal.

3. Audiologists or Medical Professionals: Audiologists or your treating medical professionals can play a crucial role in supporting your disability claim. They can conduct a hearing evaluation. They can provide medical documentation. They can write detailed reports on how your disabling hearing loss affects your daily life and ability to work.

4. Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists: Vocational rehabilitation specialists can assess your work-related skills and limitations caused by hearing loss. They can provide information on how your impairments affect your ability to find or retain employment. This information is especially crucial to strengthening your disability claim.

5. Support Organizations: Joining support organizations such as the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), can provide you with valuable resources, advocacy, and support while navigating the disability benefits application process.

Professional assistance can greatly improve your chances of a favorable outcome. The process for disability benefit applications is long and challenging. But most organizations are supportive of people with hearing loss and will be willing to help you with your disability. Don’t lose hope; there are people rallying around you. Don’t be overwhelmed by your disability—keep on going!