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What Speech Disorders and Sense Disorders Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Individuals may be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) based on an array of different disorders, including sensory-related disorders impacting an individual’s speech, vision, hearing, and so forth. This is primarily due to the fact that the SSA designed the disability benefits program to be accessible to various individuals diagnosed with a disability and, as a result, are no longer capable of earning a living.

Here is a list of specific types of sensory-related disorders that are referenced in the SSA’s Special Sense and Speech section of its “Blue Book” (i.e., the manual used by SSA personnel to assess an applicant’s disorder and viability for benefits). Please bear in mind that simply being diagnosed with one of the disorders listed below is generally not the end of the process. An assessment will then need to be conducted on how the disorder has impacted your ability to work and if it has made you unable to perform any type of work.

  • Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to Speak
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Hearing Loss
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of Vision

Let’s take a look at some of the sensory-related impairments that could potentially make you eligible for disability benefits.

Hearing Disorder

If you are suffering from hearing loss to the point where it is negatively impacting your ability to work, you may be able to apply for disability benefits. Section 2.10 of the SSA’s Blue Book expressly states that an applicant needs to meet one of the two tests to receive benefits for a hearing-related disorder.

The first test is audiometry. This test will determine your average hearing threshold sensitivity. In order to qualify for disability benefits, your sensitivity to air conduction typically needs to be at 90 decibels (dB) or worse in your stronger ear. In addition, you will need to undergo a bone conduction test. To qualify for benefits, your hearing threshold will generally need to be 60 decibels (dB) or worse in your stronger ear.

The second test is based on your ability to recognize spoken words. This test will focus on whether you are capable of repeating 40 percent or more of words spoken via a recognition exam.

To have a viable disability claim based on a hearing disorder, your medical evaluation needs to be conducted by one of three professionals:

  1. Otolaryngologist (ENT)
  2. Licensed physician, or
  3. Audiologist working under the direct supervision of an ENT or licensed physician

Speech Disorder

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. The main issue will be assessing whether your speech disorder is based on neurological impairment or physical impairment.

Examples of speech disorders that could serve as a basis for a disability claim include:

  • Aphasia
  • Apraxia of speech
  • Articulation impairment
  • Dysarthria
  • Dysprosody
  • Muteness
  • Phonemic impairment
  • Stutter
  • Voice impairment

If your inability to speak is based on a neurological impairment, an evaluation will need to be conducted under a specific section of the aforementioned Blue Book that addresses applicants struggling with neurological impairments.

If, on the other hand, the basis of your speech disorder is related to a physical impairment, the SSA typically considers whether you can utilize specific types of equipment (e.g., an electronic voice articulation device) to help restore your speaking ability to a level where you could successfully work.

Impaired Vision

If you are deemed legally blind in both eyes, there is a good chance you will be considered disabled by SSA and eligible for benefits.  If, on the other hand, you are struggling with a visual impairment that may not be as severe as total blindness, but is still debilitating, the SSA will analyze the extent to which your vision has become limited and how those limitations impact your ability to work.

There are various vision tests that you may have to complete during the application process. The reason you may need to complete multiple vision tests is that the SSA is attempting to determine if your visual impairment could be corrected through glasses, contact lenses, or surgery to the point where you could be able to work.

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.

What It Takes to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

As you can tell by the information provided above, when someone has a severe sensory-related impairment that directly impacts their ability to work and function as a member of society, they may be eligible to receive disability benefits. Nevertheless, the process for actually obtaining those benefits is not a stroll in the proverbial park and requires jumping through various hoops. 

First, your sensory-related disability must “meet a listing” in the aforementioned Blue Book that is maintained by the SSA. To have a viable claim, you need to produce evidence substantiating that your impairment satisfies the requirements of a specific disability listing in the Blue Book.

Second, you need to be able to show that, as a result of the sensory-related impairment, you are unable to perform any job. Basically, you need to show that your sensory-related impairment limits you to a degree that you are unable to perform any job safely and reasonably.

In addition to reviewing your medical records, the SSA will consider your age, education level, and work experience when assessing your eligibility for disability benefits.

Curious About Whether You May Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits? Take Action and Fill Out a Free Evaluation Form

If you are struggling with a speech disorder, vision disorder, or other sensory-related disorder, you may qualify for financial benefits through Social Security. To learn whether you have a viable disability claim, fill out the free evaluation form on this page. 

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