Do You Qualify?

By Deanna Power

Hearing loss is one of the most common disabilities in the U.S., affecting 48 million Americans. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with hearing loss, there could be help available. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial benefits for people who are unable to work due to hearing loss.

There are two types of disability benefits someone experiencing hearing loss could qualify for: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Medical qualifications will be exactly the same for both programs, but each have their own eligibility criteria.

The first type of disability benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is awarded when an adult (ages 18-66) is no longer able to work due to hearing loss.

Only people who were previously employed and have been working throughout most of their lives will qualify for SSDI benefits. To find out if you have worked enough, you can determine whether you have earned enough work credits based on your age on the SSA’s website.

The second form of disability benefits is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While there are no work requirements with SSI benefits, there are strict financial limitations. An adult SSI applicant cannot earn more than $733 per month.

For children applying for SSI benefits, parents’ income will be evaluated. The SSA is not as strict with household income limits evaluating children, but childhood SSI financial limitations are still difficult to meet. If you are married or have other children, your household income limit will be higher.

Medically Qualifying with Hearing Loss

When you apply for disability benefits with hearing loss, the SSA will compare the severity of your condition to its own medical guide known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book will list exactly how severe your hearing loss must be to be eligible for disability benefits. Hearing loss can be found in both the children’s and adult versions of the Blue Book.

The Blue Book listing for hearing loss is found in Section 2.10. For hearing loss not treated by cochlear implantation, you will need to have medical tests showing one of the following criteria:

  • You have an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in your better ear. You also must have an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or greater.

  • OR you have a word recognition score of 40 percent or less in your better ear.

If you’ve received a cochlear implant, you will be considered medically disabled by the SSA for one year after the surgery. After 12 months, the SSA will review your case. If you have a word recognition score of 60 percent or less determined using a specific test, you will still qualify. If your hearing has improved, you will no longer qualify for disability benefits.

A cochlear implant is only “automatically” disabling after surgery. Before surgery, you will need to meet one of the SSA’s other criterion.

The childhood listing is found in Blue Book Section 102.10. Children under age 5 will need to have an average air conduction hearing threshold of 50 decibels or greater in their better ear. Between the ages of 5 and 18, your child will need to have medical records showing one of the following:

  • An average air conduction hearing threshold of 70 decibels or greater in the better ear, plus an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 40 decibels or greater.

  • OR a word recognition score of 40 percent or less in the better ear, determined by using a standard list of phonetically balanced single-syllable words.

  • OR an average air conduction hearing threshold of 50 decibels or greater in the better ear, plus a marked difficulty in speech and language.

If your child has a cochlear implant, he or she will be considered medically disabled until age 5 or one year after implantation, whichever is later. After your child turns 5, or 12 months pass since surgery, your child will need a word recognition score of 60 percent or less on the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT or HINT-C) to stay on SSI.

Applying for Benefits

If you are interested in applying for disability benefits due to your hearing loss, your first stop should be the SSA’s website. The SSA has guides outlining exactly what paperwork and personal information you’ll need to apply.

If you are applying for SSDI, you can complete the entire application online. This is the easiest way to apply for disability benefits, as you can save your application and return to finish it at a later time. Be sure to list your spouse and any minor children, as they could receive benefits as well if your SSDI application is approved. SSI applicants can only file for benefits at their local SSA office. Fortunately, there are multiple SSA offices in every state.

If you have not had one of the SSA-recommend examinations performed to evaluate your hearing loss, it is wise to speak with your audiologist and have one or all of the tests performed. The more medical records you have show how severe your hearing loss is, the better your chances of approval.

Deanna Power is the Director of Community Outreach at Social Security Disability Help. She first started working with people with disabilities by volunteering with Best Buddies in college, and now specializes in helping people of all ages determine whether or not they medically qualify for disability benefits. If you have any questions, she can be reached at

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HHF Supporter Alex Mussomeli Selected as Finalist in 2016 Oticon Focus on People Awards

By Oticon

Alex Mussomeli  of Westport is among the outstanding individuals with hearing loss selected as a finalist in 2016 Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national competition that celebrates individuals who are helping to eliminate negative stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss.  The soon-to-be sixth grader is one of three outstanding young people selected as a finalist in the Student category.  Beginning June 20, people can cast their vote for Alex at  Total number of votes will help determine whether Alex is the first, second or third place winner in the national awards competition. 

This is the 18th year that the Oticon Focus on People Awards has honored hearing impaired students, adults and advocacy volunteers who have demonstrated through their accomplishments that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a positive difference in the world.



Alex, diagnosed with hearing loss as an infant, appreciates the advances in hearing research and technology that have made his life easier and happier. The gifted musician and artist is determined to use his talents so other children with hearing loss can experience the benefits he has enjoyed. He found his inspiration in a legally blind artist who raised $1 million for charities benefiting children through the sale of his paintings.  This April, Alex held his first solo art show to benefit the non-profit Hearing Health Foundation’s Hearing Restoration Project. The young artist worked diligently for a year on the colorful acrylic paintings, prints and notecards that raised a whopping $16,000 for the Foundation.

Website visitors are encouraged to read all of the stories from this year’s 12 finalists in four categories: Student, Adult, Advocacy and Practitioner. 

Voting closes on August 15. Winners will be announced in September.

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Cyndi Lauper performs in NYC for the Hearing Health Foundation

Last night the Hearing Health Foundation hosted An Intimate Evening with Cyndi Lauper at B.B. King Blues Club in New York City. The evening was mc'd by Richard Kind, a long term supporter of the Foundation. Guests appreciated an intimate performance by Grammy and Emmy Award-winning singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper to help raise funds and awareness for a cure for hearing loss.

Besides a stellar performance by the world renowned Cyndi Lauper, the evening also included a silent auction and a cocktail reception sponsored by VEEV Liquor. Richard Kind, a renowned comic genius, delivered a funny introduction then introduced the evenings co-chairs Natasha Boucai and Victoria Orlin. They delivered a touching speech before Foundation Executive Director Andrea Boidman that covered the Hearing Restoration Project, the Foundation's initiative that aims to find a biological cure for hearing loss in the next decade. Hearing loss is an issue that affects one in five Americans.

Cyndi Lauper & Richard Kind attend An Intimate Evening with Cyndi Lauper to Benefit Hearing Health Foundation

After their speech, Jennifer Harrington came on stage to share her inspiring story. Then Sotheby's auctioneer Eileen Agopian led a live auction to raise more funds for the Foundation. Once the auction was over, Kind returned to the stage to introduce superstar Cyndi Lauper. She performed several favorite hits including “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Money Changes Everything” and “Time After Time.” As the legendary performer sang, she walked through the audience and brought everyone to their feet. The B.B. King Blues Club on 42nd Street in NYC was filled to capacity as fans and supporters cheered for Cyndi on February 6.

Since 1958, the Hearing Health Foundation has given more than $27.8 million to hearing research. The Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) was launched by the Foundation in 2011. The Project involves a consortium of scientists working on cell regeneration in the ear to help restore hearing. The goal is a biological cure for most types of acquired hearing loss within the next decade. The Foundation also publishes Hearing Health magazine, a free consumer resource with information about hearing loss along with related technology, products and research. For additional information about hearing loss or to make a donation, visit the Hearing Health Foundation.

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Jay Alan Zimmerman's Incredibly Deaf Musical To Benefit Hearing Health Foundation

For Immediate Release
Contact: Amy Briskin

Jay Alan Zimmerman’s Incredibly Deaf Musical Playing at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater
at 10 West 64th Street, New York City, Benefiting Hearing Health Foundation

NEW YORKMay 7, 2012 -- Beginning on May 31st, 2012, acclaimed composer and author, Jay Alan Zimmerman, will debut his stage production, the Incredibly Deaf Musical, at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater in New York City.

Stemming from his own personal experiences, Jay Alan Zimmerman’s theatrical production tells the story of Jay – a composer who is dealing with the noisy buzz of progressive deafness stealing away his songs.  As Jay struggles to hold onto the disappearing notes, his wife and son help him strive for something other than fame or death. 

“I learned a lot from the 2010 New York Musical Theater Festival production of this play,” explained Mr. Zimmerman.  “While the reviews were very positive, I discovered I needed to restructure the drama, cut a few songs, and make both deafness and music -- two things that are ‘invisible’ --  more visible on stage.   So even though we're far from having a Broadway budget, we're using costuming, movement, and visual music projections like I've done for art exhibits in order to enhance the production while deepening the story.  It's exciting to be improving the show and raising money for Hearing Health Foundation at the same time."

A vibrant pop-classical-experimental-caption integrated mash-up, Jay Alan Zimmerman’s Incredibly Deaf Musical is the heartwarming, booty-shaking autobiography of a man trying everything he can to keep the music flying.  Jay himself – a man of many talents – not only wrote the show but also steps into the starring role for this special limited run production to benefit Hearing Health Foundation, the leading private funder of scientific research for the regeneration of hearing.  Show proceeds will go to the Hearing Health Foundation.

Available Dates and Times:
Thursday, May 31 at 8:00 PM
Friday, June 1 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, June 2 at 3:30 PM
Thursday, June 7 at 8:00 PM
Friday, June 8 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, June 9 at 3:30 PM

Ticket prices begin at $30.00 each. 

Accessibility & Captioning: Wheelchair accessible. The WC locations will be in the “Dance section”—which is perfect because the last song is about “dancing in your heart,” and using whatever you’ve got.  It will include dances for everyone, including wheelchair users!  Captioning will also be provided for this show.  The captioning will not only be invaluable to those who are deaf or who have hearing loss, but will also serve as a character in the show, expanding beyond the caption screen to interact with the actors via multimedia.

Running time: Approximately 2 hours, including intermission.

The Incredibly Deaf Musical will be playing select dates at The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater on 10 West 64th Street, New York, NY 10023.  The show is co-produced with Hearing Health Foundation.

For more information, please visit:

For information on Hearing Health Foundation, please visit:

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The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at the West Side YMCA


About Hearing Health Foundation

Hearing Health Foundation is the United States’ leading source of private funding for research in hearing and balance science.  Research made possible by Hearing Health Foundation grants has resulted in dramatic innovations that have increased options for those living with hearing and balance disorders, and protected those at risk.  Since its inception in 1958, Hearing Health Foundation has awarded more than $26.5 million through more than 2,000 scientific research grants to researchers who are dedicated to exploring new avenues of hearing and balance science.  Hearing Health Foundation also publishes the award-winning Hearing Health magazine.  For more information visit

About the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater:

The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at the West Side Y is a non-profit, independent, Off-Broadway Theater in the West Side YMCA which exists to: encourage the creative spirit in young people; empower, educate, and maximize the potential of the young people and emerging artists; serve our community by providing affordable and high quality professional arts performances, programming, training, and education;  create and launch new and innovative works that inspire, entertain, and reflect our diverse community while furthering the YMCA of Greater New York's mission of building healthy bodies, healthy minds, and healthy spirits. The historic space was named in 2004 for the late Marjorie S. Deane, a New York City philanthropist, theater advocate and fashion industry icon, whose study of fashion was fueled by her interest in costume design for the theater.

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