Hearing impairments are very common among the general population. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 15% of American adults (roughly 37.5 million people) report some trouble hearing. About 2% of adults aged 45-55 have disabling hearing loss, while that number rises to 8.5% for those aged 55-64. Significant hearing loss can make life difficult for those who suffer it and, in many cases, prevent them from engaging in gainful employment. Individuals who suffer from a hearing impairment that affects their ability to earn a living should contact a Baltimore disability lawyer for help applying for Social Security Disability benefits.
What Causes Hearing Loss? Our Baltimore Hearing Impairment Disability Lawyer Explains
The ear consists of three main regions: the inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear. Sound waves pass through the outer ear and cause the eardrum to vibrate. The eardrum and small bones in the middle ear amplify the vibrations as they pass along to the inner ear. Once they reach the inner ear, they pass into the cochlea, which translates the sound waves into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain.
Hearing loss occurs when any part of this system is not working the way it should. There are four main types of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss: occurs when something stops sound waves from getting through the inner ear to the middle ear
- Sensorineural hearing loss: occurs when there is a problem with the functioning of the inner ear or auditory nerve
- Mixed hearing loss: a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss
- Auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder: occurs when damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve prevents the brain from understanding sound waves
Hearing loss ranges from mild (in which soft sounds are hard to hear) to profound (in which the sufferer cannot hear any speech and only very loud noises).
Risk Factors for Hearing Loss
Many factors can damage the ear and lead to hearing loss, including:
- Loud noises
- Occupational noises
- Recreational noises
- Certain medications
- Certain illnesses
Noises in the “safe range” of 0-85 decibels (dB), such as breathing, normal conversations, washing machines, air conditioners, and city traffic, generally will not cause hearing loss. Noises in the “risk range” of 85-150 dB, such as motorcycles, loud music, shouting, sirens, and fireworks, can cause hearing loss after periods of exposure.
Does Hearing Loss Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
For hearing loss not treated with cochlear implants, applicants must show:
- An average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear and an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or greater in the better ear, or
- A word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear determined using a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllabic words
For hearing loss treated with cochlear implants, applicants may be considered disabled for one year after initial implantation. After one year, applicants may demonstrate disability by showing a word recognition score of 60% or less using the Hearing in Noise Test.
Contact a Baltimore Hearing Impairments Disability Lawyer for More Information
Severe hearing loss can significantly affect your ability to engage in gainful employment. For more information about applying for Social Security disability benefits with a hearing impairment, please contact Baltimore disability lawyer Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.