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Selected  Medical Impairments
Special Senses and Speech  

This category includes disorders affecting a person’s vision, hearing and speech.

Visual impairments can arise due to many causes. Some involve a loss of visual acuity (the ability to distinguish detail). Others involve a loss of visual field (a contraction of the normal field of vision, either centrally or peripherally). Still others involve a loss of both visual acuity and visual field. Some of these problems can be corrected through the use of glasses or other visual aids. Others are not correctable.

Social Security evaluates the extent of visual impairment in the better eye and after best correction.  Visual acuity of 20/200 or less; contraction of visual field subtending an angle around the point of fixation no greater than 20 degrees or having a mean deviation of -22 or worse; or visual field efficiency of 20 percent or less all constitute disabling visual impairments.

People whose vision is less impaired may still qualify for disability benefits if they have difficulty performing jobs that involve reading, working with small objects, operating motor vehicles and/or moving freely around the workplace.  However, these cases often require documentation of adverse age, educational, vocational or other special factors.

Hearing impairments can also cause difficulty in the workplace. The symptoms of these impairments can include quantifiable loss of hearing and problems such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo, disturbed balance or other disturbances that are linked to inner-ear disorders. Most hearing problems can be objectively measured by laboratory testing. However, even people with relatively mild hearing loss can qualify for disability benefits by proving that they lack the capacity for basic communication in the workplace or that the other symptoms of their disorder significantly restrict their ability to work.

Speech impairments are generally evaluated on the extent to which they impair simple communication. In evaluating these impairments, consideration is given to the person's ability to produce recognizable speech by the use of mechanical or electronic devices that improve voice of articulation. It is difficult, but not impossible, to prevail on a claim of disability that is predicated solely on impaired speech.

Special Senses and Speech
Musculoskeletal Disorders
Special Senses and Speech
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