Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Profound Hearing Loss?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with profound hearing loss to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. SSA evaluates profound hearing loss based on whether or not you have undergone a cochlear implant. Many claims for mild or moderate hearing loss are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your profound hearing loss won’t prevent you from working at least 12 months,
(2) Your profound hearing loss isn’t severe,
(3) Your profound hearing loss doesn’t meet the requirements of, or is the equivalent of, a Medical Listing,
(4) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(5) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of profound hearing loss are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with profound hearing loss.
You have to prove that your profound hearing loss interferes with your daily activities.
Ms. Cavey works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician by showing that you:
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing, or
- Proving that your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What is profound hearing loss?
Only 30% of hearing loss falls into the category of “severe to profound.’’
Severe hearing loss has 60 to 80 dB of hearing loss, which causes difficulty hearing loud speech but is heard if amplified. Profound hearing loss has 80 dB or more of hearing loss, with difficulty hearing and understanding even with amplification.
The hearing loss can be caused by damage to the inner and outer hair cells.
What SSA Wants to See in Your Medical Records
SSA will review your medical records and look for the following:
- A diagnosis of profound hearing loss,
- Audiometry testing,
- Word recognition testing,
- Results of an auditory evoked response testing,
- Detailed history of your symptoms,
- Detailed treatment history, including hearing aids, and your response to hearing aids, and
- Evidence that you have complied with treatment.
Profound Hearing loss and Its Complications and The Listing Of Impairments
In the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments,’’ the listing for hearing loss without a cochlear implantation is found in Listing 2.10; the listing for hearing loss treated with cochlear implantation is found in Listing 2.11
If your hearing loss falls under either or equals a listing, you might be approved for benefits at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
Listing 2.10 requires that you meet either one of the two following tests, without using your hearing aids:
- Audiometry testing reveals that your average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction must be 90dB or worse in your better ear, and you must have a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 dB or worse in your better ear. Your hearing loss must be calculated by averaging your hearing at the sound frequencies of 500 hertz, 1,000 hertz and 2,000 hertz.
- Word recognition testing documents that you are not able to repeat more than 40% of a list of standardized words spoken in the test.
Listing 2.11 provides that if you have cochlear implants in one or both ears, you automatically are granted benefits for one year after the implantation, regardless of whether your hearing improves within 12 months. After one year, your disability benefits will be extended so long as your word recognition on a “Hearing in Noise Test” is 60% or less.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing.
If you have profound hearing loss and another medical impairment, SSA is required to consider the combined effects of your impairments when determining if your condition is equal to a listing or when doing your RFC analysis at Steps 4 and 5.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, then SSA will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your Profound Hearing Loss Make It Impossible to Work
If your profound hearing loss doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your hearing loss.
Residual Functional Capacity For Profound hearing loss
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed RFC forms that explain:
- How your hearing loss impacts your capacity to communicate and follow instructions,
- Whether you can safely operate machinery,
- Whether you can work in a noisy environment,
- Whether you have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time,
- Whether you have psychological problems, including depression or anxiety, that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a hearing loss or other applicable RFC forms. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically and emotionally is key to winning your case. We will need to show there are no jobs you could do given the amount of your hearing loss.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims for profound hearing loss are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve For Profound Hearing loss?
Profound hearing loss and difficulty communicating can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- file your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits;
- challenge a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration;
- file a Request for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by experienced Social Security Disability attorney Nancy Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
Profound hearing loss and difficulty communicating can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits for profound hearing loss. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.