Hearing loss and tinnitus can range from mild to severe. Mild hearing loss and tinnitus are unlikely to qualify as a disability unless they prevent you from working.

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Hearing loss and tinnitus can make it difficult to complete everyday tasks. If your hearing loss makes it hard for you to work and do other daily tasks, it might qualify as a disability.

The exact definition of a disability depends on factors such as the agency you want to work with and the state you live in, but in general, mild hearing loss doesn’t qualify as a disability.

However, if your hearing loss and tinnitus prevent you from working, it likely meets the definition.

Hearing loss is common, especially as people age. People often find that everyday sounds get muffled and distorted with time.

It’s common for ringing and buzzing in the ears, called tinnitus, to go along with this loss of clear hearing. Not everyone with hearing loss experiences tinnitus, and not everyone who experiences tinnitus is experiencing hearing loss. But these two hearing conditions very often go hand-in-hand.

It’s estimated that around 90% of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss.

Hearing loss can be considered a disability in certain circumstances. The exact requirements will depend on the agency you’re applying to for services or benefits, but in general, your hearing loss will need to affect your ability to perform everyday tasks.

Typically, this means that if you’re able to do things such as care for yourself, work full-time, attend school, or care for your family with the assistance of hearing aids or other treatments, your hearing loss probably won’t be considered a disability.

However, if you’re unable to do these things even with treatments and aids, your hearing and tinnitus could qualify as a disability.

The legal definition of disability depends on the specific agency or state you’re working with. For instance, the United States Social Security Administration defines a disability as a condition — either fatal or expected to last at least 6 months — that prevents you from working.

Criteria for assistance in the form work accommodations, housing programs, and local services will vary. However, if your hearing loss and tinnitus prevent you from working or doing other daily activities, it likely meets the criteria.

Hearing loss can be mild or severe. Some people have tinnitus that comes and goes, while other people notice the ringing and buzzing sounds constantly. Symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus include:

  • hearing speech as muffled
  • trouble understanding words, especially in loud places
  • needing to turn up the volume on TVs, speakers, and headphones
  • asking people to speak up in person and over the phone
  • ringing and buzzing in the ears
  • starting to avoid places where know it will be hard to hear
  • difficulty hearing certain letters of the alphabet

Hearing loss and tinnitus are relatively common. Often, they’re related to aging and wear and tear on the hairs and nerve cells in the ear over time. Additional causes of hearing loss can include:

Anyone can experience hearing loss, but there are several known risk factors that make it more likely. These include:

The treatment for hearing loss and tinnitus depends on the cause. Some types of hearing loss and tinnitus are chronic and will need to be managed for the rest of a person’s life. Other types can be resolved quickly. Possible treatments include:

The outlook for hearing loss and tinnitus can vary. There are multiple causes of hearing loss and tinnitus, and the cause affects the outcome. Some types of hearing loss and tinnitus can be resolved, but others are chronic and get progress as a person ages.

Your doctor and audiologist can discuss your hearing loss with you to help you understand your options and outlook.

You can learn more about hearing loss and tinnitus by reading the answers to some common questions.

What else can cause tinnitus?

When tinnitus isn’t linked to hearing loss, it’s often caused by conditions such as:

How can I purchase a hearing aid?

Recently, it’s become possible to purchase a hearing aid without a prescription. You can find them over the counter in many drugstores.

Will insurance pay for hearing aids?

Insurance will sometimes pay for hearing aids. If your insurance doesn’t, you might be able to use the funds from your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Healthcare Savings Account (HSA) instead.

Hearing loss and tinnitus are two hearing conditions that often go hand-in-hand. It’s estimated that about 90% of people with tinnitus have hearing loss. When hearing loss interferes with your ability to work, it can be considered a disability.

The exact rules and requirements vary depending on the agency and the services you’re seeking. Some types of hearing loss can be resolved easily, while others are chronic and will require lifelong management. You and your doctor can discuss the best treatment options and the outlook for your hearing loss.