Disability for Acoustic Neuroma: Benefits and Filing Information

Social Security disability benefits may be available to those with acoustic neuroma under the listing for "disturbances of labyrinthine-vestibular function."

An acoustic neuroma is a tumor that grows on the nerve that connects your ear to your brain. The nerve on which the tumor grows is called the vestibular cochlear nerve, and it affects both your hearing and balance. This tumor is slow-growing and is not a type of cancer, but it can cause damage to important nerves as it gets larger.

The symptoms associated with acoustic neuroma generally affect hearing and balance. Hearing loss and ringing in the ears are the most common hearing problems. Balance problems include dizziness, unsteadiness, loss of balance, and vertigo (feeling the world is spinning). If the tumor is pressing on the facial nerve, which is right next to the vestibular cochlear nerve, it can cause numbness, pain, weakness, or paralysis in the face. Other symptoms can include difficulty understanding speech, headaches, sleepiness, and vision problems.

If the acoustic neuroma tumor gets large enough, it may increase the pressure on your brain. Severe headaches, clumsy walking, and confusion are all possible symptoms of this. Increased pressure on the brain is very dangerous and requires immediate medical care.

To qualify to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you must show that you meet the requirements of a disability listing from the Social Security blue book or that you don't have the capacity to return to work.

Do You Meet a Disability Listing?

While there is no specific listing for acoustic neuroma, Social Security's blue book has a listing for "disturbances of labyrinthine-vestibular function." The listing actually describes the effects of acoustic neuroma without naming the condition.

To show that you meet this listing, you must have a history of balance disturbances, ringing in the ears, and hearing loss that is getting worse. However, Social Security will not take your word for it that you have these problems. Specifically, two elements must be shown.

  • Your balance disturbances must be shown by medical evidence including a neuro-otolaryngologic examination that includes a detailed description of how often, how severe, and how long balance disturbances last. Additionally, appropriate testing should be completed to show the tumor in your inner ear that is causing such balance disturbances.
  • Your hearing loss must be shown by medical evidence including an auditory test.

To learn more about conditions that qualify for benefits, see Medical Conditions - Eligibility for Disability Benefits.

    Do You Have the Capacity to Return to Work?

    If you don't meet the requirements of the disability listing for labyrinthine-vestibular , you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you are not able to return to work. To be considered able to return to work, you must have the proper sensory, physical, and mental abilities to successfully complete the tasks required for a job. Social Security evaluates these abilities in a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment.

    Sensory Abilities

    Social Security looks to see whether your sensory abilities (sight, sound, touch, feel, and taste are sufficient to do most types of jobs. Those with acoustic neuroma often suffer from hearing loss, which can affect their ability to understand others. Vision problems can also occur. Both of these impairments can make certain tasks impossible and others very difficult. A combination of both hearing and vision problems affect individuals even more.

    Physical Abilities

    Physical abilities that Social Security looks at include the ability to sit, stand, or walk for more than a minimal amount of time and the ability to pull, push, carry, or lift objects to complete a job. Physical ability does not only include heavy work; it is also important to consider if you have the ability to do more intricate work with your hands, such as typing or handling small objects.

    For those with acoustic neuroma, problems with balance affect one's physical abilities significantly. Bending over to pick up or push items may not be possible for those with balance problems. Lifting or moving heavy objects can also be very unsafe for someone with balance problems.

    Mental Abilities

    Social Security considers whether you have the mental abilities required for any job, such as the ability to complete a task, including understanding what is being asked of you, remember details of your job, and maintain concentration in order to complete the task at hand. Social Security also looks at your ability to properly interact with your supervisors and coworkers and to deal with work stresses.

    Individuals with acoustic neuroma may have difficulty concentrating due to ringing in their ears, headaches, and sleepiness. Confusion that can occur can make it difficult for an individual to understand the tasks given to them. And if the individual has difficulty understanding what others are saying, it may make interactions with others in the workplace more difficult.

    RFC Assessment and Disability Determination

    Social Security then takes your RFC and compares it to your prior job skills, your education, and your age to see if there is any work you can do with your specific limitations. For more information on how Social Security will make this determination, see our articles on disability through an RFC.

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