Special Senses, Hearing and Speech

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Social Security Disability

Special Senses, Hearing and Speech


Some concerns which might come up in a disability claim are “special senses” claims involving hearing and speech. Vision difficulties are often included as one of the special senses but for purposes of this explanation, it will be excluded because vision difficulties are covered extensively elsewhere under “Vision”.

The factors in Special Senses and Speech that normally lead to disability claims usually fall into one of two categories:

1. HEARING LOSS: Hearing losses are normally determined by an audiologist who performs a hearing test. There is a separate element that is sometimes considered as far as hearing and that is word recognition capabilities, although this is very seldom a cause for disability. If one has a cochlear implant, that will often facilitate a disability determination, at least for a year.

2. BALANCE: By far, the most common special senses issue which results in disability is characterized by frequent attacks of dizziness, loss of balance, vertigo, tinnitus or similar conditions which greatly interfere with the day-to-day functioning of a claimant.

It is not sufficient simply to just have a situation such as Meniere’s Disease or Vertigo or Tinnitus. It is up to the claimant to show they have this condition at such a frequency and to such a degree that it would preclude substantial gainful employment, taking into consideration their age, education and work experience. With most of the burden on the claimant, this often means sophisticated testing and keeping accurate records, journals and/or calendars as to the frequency and severity of their condition so these records can be credibly produced for review by an Adjudicator or the Administrative Law Judge.

Balance disorders are by far the most common criterion used in disability claims involving special senses.

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