The Malingerer: Faking a Hearing Loss

I want this week’s blog entry to be a little different than the ones from the past. So what is a malingerer? It’s a person who fakes illness. In my case it’s a person who fakes a hearing loss.

Why do people fake hearing loss? 

The majority of malingerers feign a hearing loss to get some sort of compensation; Social Security, Worker’s Compensation, Disability, etc. Other people that I have seen fake hearing loss include children and adults looking for attention.

What I find interesting about the malingerer is that they think that I will not be able to decipher if they are being truthful. Faking hearing loss is not a new phenomenon. Consequently we have developed procedures that ensure reliability in our testing. If the test results do not support each other we begin to suspect malingering.

My most memorable experience involved a middle aged woman. When she entered my office she was easily able to converse with her children and me. Once she entered my sound booth for testing she began to struggle to hear. She couldn’t hear the tones for testing at an extremely loud level, however when I talked to her at a low volume she responded to my questions without problem. It was clear to me that she was faking hearing loss. As we finished testing she asked if I could write a letter to the Social Security office. Bingo, that’s why she was faking.

The moral of this article is audiologist are not as dumb as we look. We know when results are questionable and when they are being faked. You’re going to have to know our testing protocols well in order to trick us.