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
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.