There are a variety of reasons you may be thinking of faking a hearing loss during a hearing test. Perhaps it is to gain compensation from the Military, a Workers Compensation disability claim, to get out of school, or just to get some attention. However, there are 6 things you should know before attempting to trick a hearing care professional who has been specifically trained to sniff out an actual hearing loss.
#1. The Pure Tone Test - This is when you hear beeps during the hearing test and you either raise your hand or click a button to let the tester know you heard it. The problem is, your hearing care professional will constantly adjust the volume of the beeps and you have to consistently for the same beeps or it will look suspicious.If you try to fake a hearing loss in only one ear by not raising your hand at all, they will perform a Stenger Test. It is impossible to trick the Stenger test so faking a loss in one ear only is not a smart idea.
#2. Speech Reception Thresholds (SRTs) - The whole purpose of SRTs is to see if your ability to understand speech matches up with your thresholds from Pure Tone Testing. If they don't match up, it is a solid indicator that you are faking a hearing loss. Since you won't be able to tell what level you are supposed to hear the speech, you likely won't be able to guess the correct level to repeat the words.
#3. Word Recognition Scores (WRS) - This is when words are presented at an audible level and you are expected to repeat them back. You can't just not repeat the words because the tester will know you are faking. So if you are going to repeat the words back incorrectly, you have to make them sound similar to the word being presented. This is extremely hard to do.
#4. Auditory Reflex Testing (ARTs) - These are involuntary reflexes created by your Stapedius and Tensor Tympani muscles in your middle ear space. When a sound is presented to your ear, these muscles contract, indicating that your inner ear heard the sound. Since you can't fake this portion of the test it will likely foil your plan to fake a loss.
#5. Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs) - This is another involuntary evaluation to determine if your ears are capable of sending sound to your brain. When these sounds are presented to your ears, your ears involuntarily respond with a sound of their own to indicate if they are functioning properly. If you truly have a hearing loss, this test will show it, if you don't have a hearing loss, it will show that as well.If you've somehow made it this far, your audiologist will have one more trick up their sleeves.
#6. The Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) - This test will measure your brain activity in response to sound. With electrodes hooked up to your face and scalp a sound will be presented to your ears. If you hear the sound, it will be indicated by a spike on a computer screen. If you don't hear the sound, it will show a flat line. Either way, you can't fake this part of the test because you brain will automatically respond when it hears the sound.
Even though it is impossible to fake a hearing loss, there is one occasion that I believe it is okay to make an attempt. That is if you need help with depression or abuse. If a faked hearing loss is a cry for help, let your hearing care professional get you help.
Depression Hotline: 1-877-870-HOPE (4673)
Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)