Eligible Disabilities

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.

  • Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of Speech
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Otolaryngology (Hearing Loss)
  • Partial Sight
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa
  • Vertigo
  • Vision Loss
  • Visual Acuity or Efficiency

Hearing Impairments

There are a number of tests that 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.

Speech Loss

As a general rule, if you are unable to speak then you have a strong case for being deemed disabled and eligible to receive benefits. 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.

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 is 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 that 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.

Inability to Stand (i.e. Vertigo)

When someone is diagnosed with vertigo, it can impact their ability to stand for any period of time, their ability to drive, and their ability to perform any type of work. If you were diagnosed with vertigo and apply for disability benefits, the SSA will conduct tests in an effort to determine how frequently you struggle with bouts of vertigo and the severity of your vertigo. It is common for disability applicants to undergo different forms of medical image testing (e.g., CAT scan and MRI) to substantiate the severity of their vertigo.

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