Sirens, machinery, jackhammers—there are a number of ways you could have suffered hearing loss on the job. No matter whether you’re an industrial worker whose eardrums have given in after years of abuse or you have lost your hearing due to degenerative illness, the Social Security Administration will grant hearing loss benefits to deaf workers.

However, there is one hurdle you may have to overcome. The Social Security Administration will only grant disability payments for “significant” hearing loss. If your impairment is considered mild or moderate, you may be denied benefits and have to work much harder to prove your disability to the SSA.

Social Security Disability for the Hearing Impaired

There are three ways the Social Security Administration will automatically grant disability payments to hearing-impaired workers. To qualify for hearing loss disability benefits, you must have one of the following:

  • Qualified by audiometry test. A hearing test may be ordered to assess your average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction. This must be 90 decibels (dB) or worse in your better ear, and also have a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels (dB) or worse in your better ear. This is done by averaging your hearing ability at 500 hertz, 1,000 hertz, and 2,000 hertz.
  • Failed a word recognition test. This test is a practical application of hearing, speech processing, and speech discrimination. You will have to repeat a list of standardized words that are spoken to you. If you can accurately identify 40 percent or more of the words, you will not be considered hearing impaired by the SSA.
  • Cochlear implants. If you have recently received cochlear implants in one or both ears, you will automatically be granted disability benefits for one year after implantation. After one year has elapsed, you may extend your disability benefits as long as you are unable to score higher than 60 percent on future hearing tests.

The SSA requires that any hearing tests for disability consideration should be done by a licensed physician or an otolaryngologist. An audiologist may administer tests, but he must be supervised by an ENT or physician. All testing should be done without your hearing aids.

If you know someone who is afraid to speak up about his hearing loss, send him a link to this article on Facebook or Google+, or re-post our related links to more information on sensory loss. They may not realize that there is help available—and that it doesn’t cost them anything to apply for benefits.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer