Hearing Impairment – Deafness and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Lupus?
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis
Hearing loss affects approximately 48 million people in the United States. One out of three people over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss and 14% of people between the ages of 45 and 65. Tinnitus, ringing in the ears, affects approximately 50 million people. Although the use of hearing aids can improve hearing dramatically, most people wait an average of seven years before seeking help and 15 million avoid seeking help.
The ear is an extremely sensitive organ that transmits sound to the brain through three main components: the outer ear called the pinna, the middle ear known as the tympanic cavity, and the inner ear or cochlea.
Sound waves travel from the outer ear through the auditory canal causing the eardrum to vibrate, which in turn causes the small bones of the middle ear to move. The vibrations move through fluid in the inner ear, stimulating thousands of tiny hair cells. The vibrations are then transformed into electrical impulses interpreted as sound by the brain.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Hearing Impairment issues. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
There are two types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the outer ear, ear drum or the bones of the ear resulting in an inefficient transfer of sound to the inner ear or cochlear. Usually this affects volume and sound or speech doesn’t seem loud enough.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear, auditory nerve or auditory center of the brain.
The pathway through the outer and middle ears functions normally but isn’t processed normally because of damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve, or defects in the auditory pathway to the brain. This results in difficulty hearing clearly and understanding speech, especially when background noise is present.
There are many different causes of hearing loss.
- Age related hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noise
- Genetic hearing loss passed down from a parent
- Traumatic injury to the ear
- Medications that have a toxic effect on the ear or its nerve supply
- Viral or bacterial infections
Sensorineural hearing loss is usually caused by extensive exposure to loud noise or aging while conductive hearing loss is often caused by some type of blockage, such as wax in the ear.
An individual may also have a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss or “mixed” hearing loss. Symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Muffling of speech and other sounds
- Difficulty understanding words, especially when background noise is present
- Trouble hearing consonants
- Needing to turn up the volume of a radio or television
- Asking others to speak more slowly or repeat words
Diagnosis of hearing loss will begin with a general exam to look for blockage, infection, or structural damage to the ear.
Other measures include tuning fork tests and audiometer tests. A tuning fork test will use two-pronged metal instruments to detect hearing loss and determine where damage occurred. Audiometer tests are conducted by an audiologist with the patient wearing earphones that direct sound to each ear at faint levels.
Hearing loss is measured in decibels, a unit measure of sound level or intensity. Audiologists evaluate hearing loss in terms of normal, mild, moderate, severe, and profound.
- Normal (25dB hearing loss). The patient can hear most speech sounds in a quiet, comfortable listening situation.
- Mild (26-40dB). The patient can hear one on one conversations reasonably well, but misses words if there is background noise.
- Moderate (41-70dB). The patient misses a lot of speech and phone conversations.
- Severe (71-90). The person needs a hearing aid to hear speech almost all the time.
- Profound (91dB and greater). The patient cannot hear without hearing aids or a cochlear implant.
Treatment will depend on the extent and cause of hearing loss.Treatment will depend on the extent and cause of hearing loss.
This may involve removing excess ear wax or surgery to treat abnormalities of the ear or ear bones. If the patient has frequent infections due to fluid in the ear, medications may be prescribed or tubes may be inserted in the ears. Hearing aids can amplify sound if there is damage to the inner ear and a cochlear implant can directly stimulate the hearing nerve. Conductive hearing loss often improves with medications, surgery or hearing aids, while sensorineural hearing loss benefits from hearing aids, cochlear implants and communication therapies.
Hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression and anxiety.
Often an individual’s career and work life are negatively impacted. The Social Security Administration recognizes hearing loss as an impairment and disability benefits are available for profound hearing loss or deafness, but not for moderate or mild hearing loss. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability income, an applicant must meet the specific requirements of Social Security’s Blue Book listings under Sections 2.10 Social Security’s Blue Book listings under Sections 2.10 (hearing loss without cochlear implants) and 2.11 (hearing loss with cochlear implants).
To be eligible for disability benefits without cochlear implants, an applicant must satisfy the requirements of either an audiometry test or a word recognition test.
The result of the audiometry test must show that the applicant’s average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction must be 90 decibels (90dB) or worse in the applicant’s better ear and a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels (60dB) or worse in the better ear. Hearing loss must be calculated by averaging the applicant’s hearing at the sound frequencies of 500 hertz (Hz), 1,000 Hz and 2,000 Hz. A word recognition test evaluates speech discrimination. An applicant must be unable to repeat 40% of a list of standardized words that are spoken. Tests are conducted by a physician, an otolaryngologist (ENT), or an audiologist and are performed without the use of hearing aids.
Applicants who have cochlear implants in one or both ears are automatically granted disability benefits for one year after implantation.
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device consisting of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. Though an implant does not restore normal hearing, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help them to understand speech. After one year a claimant who has a cochlear implant will be re-evaluated by Social Security and disability benefits will not be extended unless the applicant’s word recognition during a Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) is 60% or less.
It should be noted that if your hearing is impaired in only one ear, you will not qualify for disability benefits.
But, if you have a hearing impairment and your disability does not match one of Social Security’s listings, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another impairment; for example, an intellectual or psychological disorder. Applicants often have more than one illness or injury that prevents them from working full time. By itself one disorder may not meet the requirements of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book. However, if an applicant has multiple medical conditions, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit an applicant’s ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks. Social Security will also evaluate how your limitations affect your ability to work (called a medical-vocational assessment), taking into account your ability to communicate, follow instructions and perform various tasks as well as your age and level of education.
If you have a hearing impairment that has prevented you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability income.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson ReutersSuperlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale HubbellTop AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districtsadmitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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