A child comes in for testing and the results just don’t add up. Or maybe we test them more than once and each time the results are different. Why would a child go to all the trouble to fake a hearing loss?
There are several reasons why:
A reason to get out of school.
A way to get attention from a parent or guardian.
A cry for help- a way to let health professionals know there are problems at school (bullying) or home (neglect, alcoholism/drug abuse, divorce, etc.).
As an excuse for poor academic performance at school.
A way to feel “special” or stand out from the crowd.
Exaggerated hearing loss occurs in about 2% of pediatric hearing evaluations. It is most common in or with:
8-16 year olds
Failed hearing screening with no other issues
How do Audiologists “catch” the exaggerated hearing loss?
Audiologists can use several different types of tests to distinguish between an exaggerated loss and a true hearing loss. Most of these tests are objective, that is they do not require any response from the child. Other tests are conducted to see if the child will respond the way we would expect them to if they have normal hearing or a true hearing loss. Am I giving away more details than that? No way! We have to keep a few tricks up our sleeves!
Often parents already suspect that their child might be “faking it.” Recently I had a parent tell me that she started noticing a change in attention-seeking behavior in her pre-teen when a new baby arrived in the family. A colleague shared a story of a teenager faking a hearing loss up until she was on the operating table to get a hearing implant! As Audiologists we must always remain open-minded and savvy when working with pediatric patients. Our goal is always to find the true status of hearing for a child, and to do it with utmost respect for that child and their family. If you suspect any hearing issue for your child, don’t hesitate to ask the Pediatrician for a referral for a hearing test.