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At What Level is Hearing Loss Considered a Disability?

a hearing specialist performing a hearing aid fitting for his elderly patient

If you or someone you know has hearing loss then you may be wondering about at what point is it considered that you or they are legally deaf. There are several factors to take into account when diving into this important question.

Typically hearing loss is gradual and you may not even notice you’re losing it until it becomes more advanced. The reality is that it can have a major impact on your life and your health and happiness. Here you can understand at what level is hearing loss considered a disability so you can successfully navigate your situation and diagnosis.

When is Hearing Loss Considered a Disability?

There’s not a clear-cut and easy answer to this question and it tends to be a bit more complicated than you may assume initially. As it relates to hearing loss you may be curious about at what point is the impact of it severe enough that it’s disabling. 

Remain sensitive to those with hearing loss as you dig deeper into this question, as some in the deaf community don’t agree with being called or labeled as disabled. Speak to your loved ones first and let them know where you’re coming from and that you care before approaching them with this matter. 

Given all this, let’s take a closer look at if there’s a difference between medically and legally disabling hearing loss and how it’s determined.

Categorizing Your Hearing Loss

The first step is to understand how to categorize your hearing loss. It’s important to remember that there are several frameworks and terms that come into play when defining and measuring hearing loss. It’s up to the person with the hearing loss to decide how to do so and how they identify with it. Essentially, it comes down to two perspectives when determining the disability status which is legal and medical.

A Medical Perspective on Hearing Loss

Hearing loss from a medical standpoint mainly focuses on the physical capabilities and biological functionality of the ears. An audiologist uses thresholds that are set by the medical field to identify if there is hearing loss and will then present a proper treatment. They will measure your hearing according to decibels and determine how your hearing performs within a particular framework. According to the standards set by the National Center for Biotechnology Information it’s assumed that any hearing loss that’s over 40dBs is considered an impairment, while severe and profound hearing loss equates to deafness.

A Legal Perspective on Hearing Loss

When it comes to hearing loss from a legal perspective, there are guidelines that are followed instead of an exact framework. The claim that someone has a disability due to hearing impairment largely depends on the circumstances of that person who has it. Below is a list of factors to weigh and consider:

  • Was the hearing loss a direct result of a workplace injury?
  • What’s the degree to which the hearing loss impairs the individual's daily life?
  • What’s the degree to which the hearing loss impairs the individual's career?
  • At what level do hearing aids or cochlear implants ease the condition?

Qualification for disability protections and benefits differs from each country, as well as by state and province. In addition, there are a variety of qualifications for receiving provincial disability benefits. Hearing impairment and what is considered legally deaf are usually set at the state level in the US.

Taking all of this information into account, it’s safe to say that the majority of places agree that hearing loss is considered disabled at about the 70dBs threshold.

Hearing Loss and Claiming Disability

If you have hearing loss then you may not be wondering if your condition is classified as a disability? Always turn to the data if you’re unsure. Ideally, you should schedule an appointment with an audiologist so they can test your hearing and determine what degree – if any – of hearing loss is present and the next steps for addressing and treating it. It’s also wise to get familiar with the laws in your particular area so you know how hearing loss is defined and categorized.

You now have a better understanding of what defines hearing loss and when it’s considered a disability. Having a hearing test is the easiest way to begin your path to better hearing. Our audiologists and team are working hard daily to help you and others improve your life through better hearing. If you want to learn more about the Hearing & Balance Specialists of Illinois or want to schedule an appointment then give us a call at 775-336-0211.