At a certain point, hearing loss may be classified as a disability. For most people with hearing loss, the condition is degenerative, and when your hearing loss reaches a certain threshold, you may be entitled to social security or support to help with your hearing. If you think you may have hearing loss, talk to an audiologist. After an initial consultation, you’ll have more idea of the severity of your hearing loss. This article will look at when hearing loss is considered a disability in the U.S.

Hearing Loss and Disability in the U.S.

Two or three children out of every 1,000 in the U.S. are born with hearing loss. Approximately 37.5 million adults in the U.S. report some form of hearing loss, and 28 million could benefit from hearing aids. One in 50 adults reports disabling hearing loss between the ages of 45-55, which jumps to half when looking at adults over the age of 75. Disabling hearing loss is prevalent in the U.S., particularly for older adults.

Disabling hearing loss describes the point at which your hearing loss impacts your ability to hear conversations, even with the use of a hearing aid. This is usually measured by decibels (dB), which is how loud the sound is, and Hertz (Hz), which is the frequency of the sound wave. The higher the Hz, the better the quality of the sound.

What Levels of Hearing Loss Determine My Right to Social Security?

Your eligibility for social security due to hearing loss may vary from state to state. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a clear definition of what constitutes a disabling hearing loss in the U.S.

Your audiologist will conduct an air conduction test, which measures how your outer and middle ear receives sound sent from a loudspeaker or earphone. They may also run a bone conduction test, which measures how your inner ear receives sound. A small device is placed on your forehead or behind your ear for a bone conduction test. A word recognition test will also determine how well you hear certain sounds and words. Your audiologist will say a list of standardized words, and you will need to repeat them back.

For those with hearing loss that is not treated with a cochlear implant you:

  • Must have an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 dB or greater in the better ear and an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 dB or more in the better ear
  • Word recognition of less than 40% in the better ear using a set test of standardized words

If you have had a cochlear implant, you automatically become eligible for social security within the first year of your implant. If a year after your implant your word recognition score is 60% or less, then you may also be eligible for social security.

What Styles of Hearing Aid Can Help with Disabling Hearing Loss?

If your audiologist tests you and you discover you are experiencing disabling hearing loss, there are two main hearing aid styles that can help. These two styles are designed for those with moderate to severe hearing loss:

  • Behind the ear (BTE): BTE hearing aids are placed behind or on top of the ear. They connect to an ear mold or ear tip and bring sounds directly into the ear via a tube or a piece of wiring. BTE hearing aids are designed to house a range of custom tools and functions that augment hearing for those with severe hearing loss.
  • In the ear (ITE): These hearing aids tend to be custom-fit to your ear size and are placed directly into the outer bowl of your ear. Those with severe hearing loss will have a ‘full shell’ model, which covers the full ear basin. A full shell ITE will help you hear better by stopping sound from escaping the ear. The sound will be directed straight back into your ear, which will help to amplify the sound (make it louder).

How Can Davis Audiology Help Me with My Disabling Hearing Loss?

If you think you may have a disabling hearing loss, Davis Audiology can help you. Our audiologists have over a decade of experience in diagnosing and treating hearing loss. Our audiologists will talk to you and run through our hearing tests to see whether you have hearing loss. We may then run air conduction, bone conduction and word recognition tests to help establish whether you have disabling hearing loss.

If you need support with determining your level of hearing loss, contact Davis Audiology at (864) 810-6238. Our expert and friendly team of audiologists can talk you through hearing tests and hearing aids.

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