Qualifying for Social Security With Childhood Hearing Loss

If your child experiences hearing loss, he or she may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial resources for people of all ages, including children under age 18. While many children with hearing loss will meet medical criteria for approval, technical qualifications are much more challenging to meet.

Medically Qualifying With Childhood Hearing Loss

The SSA uses its own medical guideline of qualifying criteria, known as the Blue Book, when evaluating applicants for disability benefits. Childhood hearing loss is listed under Sections 102.10 and 102.11 of the Blue Book.   There are a few ways to qualify:

  • If your child is younger than 5, he or she will qualify with an average air conduction hearing threshold of 50 decibels of greater in the better ear.
  • Children ages 5-18 will qualify by meeting one of the following criteria:
  1. An average air conduction hearing threshold of 70 decibels or greater in the better ear, or a bone conduction hearing threshold of 40 decibels or greater in the better ear
  2. A word recognition score of 40% or less in the better ear
  3. An average air conduction hearing threshold of 50 decibels or greater in the better ear
  • Qualifying will be easier if your child’s hearing loss has been treated with a cochlear implantation. Any child automatically qualifies until their 5th birthday, or for a full year after the surgery, whichever is later.  After this point, if your child has a word recognition score (determined using the HINT) of 60% or less, they will remain eligible for benefits.

The entire Blue Book is available online.  Please review it with your child’s audiologist to determine if he or she is eligible.

Technical Eligibility for Social Security Benefits

Children are only eligible for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits. SSI was designed for the country’s most needy people. If you earn a decent living, your child will not qualify for SSI regardless of the severity of his or her hearing loss. You’ll have a specific monthly income limit for SSI eligibility—the larger your family, the higher the limit.

For example, a single parent with one child could not earn more than $38,000 before taxes and still have a child qualify for SSI. A two-parent household with three children could earn up to $55,000 per year while still qualifying. You can view your specific income limits online on the SSA’s website.

SSI technical criteria is the #1 reason for denials, but the good news is that your child could qualify for disability benefits once he or she turns 18, even if your child is still living at home. At age 18 your income no longer counts towards your child’s SSI eligibility.

Apply for Disability

To start the application process for your child, you should review the Child Disability Starter Kit. This online guide will outline exactly what documents you’ll need on hand and paperwork you should fill out to apply on behalf of a child.

To complete the application, you will have to make an appointment with your closest Social Security office. You can make an appointment to apply in person by calling the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

Helpful Links:

Blue Book: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/102.00-SpecialSensesandSpeech-Childhood.htm#102_10

Income Limits for Parents: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-child-ussi.htm

SSA Offices: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/social-security-disability-locations

Child Disability Starter Kit: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm