Tinnitus in an ear condition which includes hearing any noise which does not originate outside of the ear or head and is generally caused by hearing loss, damage to ear, circulatory issues, exposure to loud noises, abnormal bone growth, Menieres disease, tumor of the cranial nerve, spasms of the muscles within the middle ear, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), certain dysfunctions of the auditory tube that connects the middle ear with the back of the throat, or the presence of foreign objects within the ear canal.
The condition can also be linked to other serious health conditions such as fatigue, stress, depression, anxiety, metabolic dysfunction, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, brain infection, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, closed head trauma, or skull fracture.
Although tinnitus can affect claimants of any age, it is most often reported by Caucasians, males, the aged, and those who have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or those who have been exposed to unhealthy levels of noise for an extended time period.
What do I hear?
Individuals who have tinnitus describe a variety of unusual noises. For example, some describe hearing high-pitched sounds, ringing sounds, whistles, steam sounds, the wind rushing, roaring, humming, muffled speech, breathing sounds, or pulse-like high pitched sounds. The type of sound and the level of noise can vary by condition.
Social Security Disability benefits and Tinnitus
Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI benefits are offered to claimants who have a severe health condition which is expected to last 12 continuous months and does not allow claimants to work. Claimants must also be insured for SSDI benefits.
To make a disability determination the SSA will first review whether your condition meets or exceeds a listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments (a listing of conditions and symptoms the SSA considers automatically disabling).
If your condition is listed and you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI benefits, you will be approved. If your condition is not listed, the SSA will determine through the medical vocational process if your condition is so severe you do not have the residual capacity to work.
Meeting a listing for Tinnitus
Tinnitus on its own is not listed in the SSA Listing of Impairments or Blue Book. Claimants who have an underlying condition which has caused tinnitus may, however, be able to meet or equal a listing.
For instance, claimants who have Menieres disease may meet listing 2.00 Special Senses and Speech, Section 2.07 Disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function. To meet this listing, however, claimants must have frequent attacks of tinnitus, balance disturbances, and progressive hearing loss.
If your tinnitus is caused by another severe health condition, such as multiple sclerosis, your condition could be evaluated under listing 11.00 Neurological, Section 11.09 Multiple Sclerosis. Under this listing you would have to prove you have disorganization of motor function, visual or mental impairment, and significant, reproducible fatigue of motor function with substantial muscle weakness on repetitive activity, demonstrated on physical examination.
Winning SSDI through medical vocational allowance
Claimants who cannot prove their tinnitus meets or equals a listing should talk to a lawyer about their options. Winning through a medical vocational allowance may be possible, but it will be very difficult.