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Special Senses/Speech Disabilities and Social Security Disability

The Blue Book is the manual used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to define what qualifies as a complete disability. The manual is broken down into fourteen categories, each covering a broad range of conditions which affect a specific body part or function. The second section in the Blue Book lays out the qualifications for disabling conditions related to special senses and speech.

Special senses include sight and hearing. There are many types of disabilities relating to these senses, and to loss of speech. The Blue Book lists a few specific special sense and speech disorders and lists guidelines for determining whether other disorders related to the special senses and speech are sufficient to qualify claimants for Social Security disability benefits. Some conditions which cause vertigo are also considered under this section of the Blue Book.

Vision Disorders

The most obvious vision disorder is blindness. Those who are legally blind in both eyes will have no trouble qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. Visual disorders which are less acute than complete blindness are evaluated by how much your vision is limited, how much your acuity is affected, and how much your field of vision is affected.

In most cases, the SSA will only consider the vision in the better of your two eyes when determining whether you qualify for disability benefits for “statutory blindness.” There are a number of vision tests the SSA will have you undergo (if you have proof that you’re already had them). In general, they are trying to establish whether or not your visual disorders could potentially be corrected enough for you to perform meaningful work.

Conditions which affect your field of vision (i.e., optic neuropathy, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, etc.) are tested a bit differently, and generally require the SSA to conduct a field test in addition to any tests your doctor or optometrist has conducted. In general, they are looking to confirm that the results of various field tests are consistent with each other.

Hearing Impairments

There are a number of tests which must be conducted to show that you have a hearing impairment sufficient to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. This includes standard hearing tests (such as the ones in which you press a button when you hear a tone) as well as air conduction, bone conduction, and word recognition tests.

Vertigo

When considering conditions which cause vertigo, the SSA is mainly trying to determine how long the conditions have existed, how often they occur, and how severe they are. Medical image tests such as CAT scans and MRIs are often used as evidence of the various conditions which cause severe vertigo.

Speech Loss

Generally speaking, if you are unable to speak, you will be considered disabled. If the cause of your speech loss is neurological, it will be evaluated under the section of the Blue Book dealing with neurological disorders. If the cause of your speech loss is physical, the SSA will consider whether equipment such as electronic voice articulation devices could potentially restore your speech to the point that you could function on a job site.

Listed below are specific disorders that fall within the SSA’s Special Sense and Speech evaluation of disability claims: