A few weeks ago, The New York Times published an article about a “deaf” person who was exposed as a fraud. Mamoru Samuragochi, a popular Japanese composer whose deafness made him seem like a modern-day Beethoven, staged a career-long hoax in which someone else surreptitiously wrote his compositions. Furthermore,  it seems like he faked his hearing disability.

Reading this article makes me consider two perhaps unfortunate scenarios.

  1. A person faking a hearing disability to make him or her stand out, win praise from others for overcoming obstacles, etc.
  2. A deaf person who has enough hearing and speaking ability from hearing aids or cochlear implants such that others mistakenly view him or her as hearing.

It would be incredibly naive to think that neither of these scenarios occur. Sadly, they do, and Samuragochi seems to be a prime example of Scenario #1. Fortunately, I don’t know of any others off the top of my head.

But what about Scenario #2? I think I fit into this one. With amplification from powerful hearing aids, I can easily communicate to someone so long as there is insignificant background noise. I’m sure that others have doubted my deafness in the past.

The problem is that, in the absence of medical records and audiograms, there isn’t a clear-cut algorithm for determining if a person qualifies as being deaf. A person wearing hearing aids could be wearing them for just a tiny, almost negligible benefit, or the hearing aids could mean the difference between hearing anything versus nothing at all. Speaking ability also varies from person to person. There is an abstract spectrum of “deafness,” and I think it’s challenging for people to determine where anyone else lies within it.