Reblogged with permission from Alvan. I think I should follow the suit as I have been asked/questioned about it many times. However, this may be slightly different from him as he is renowned for being a writer, as well as a deaf advocate. Like him, I am another deaf advocate. I am identified as a Deaf arts & music practitioner here in Singapore.
*When and how did you lose your hearing?
LG: My deafness was discovered when I was two. Its cause still remains unknown. Even, my family members did not know how I became deaf. At that time, my hearing loss level was moderate-severe. Now, it has worsened to profound-severe. This deterioration in hearing loss does not affect me very much as this deafness is part of me. I am proud of being Deaf.
*How did you feel about wearing hearing aids? Have you ever considered the cochlear implants?
LG: I am comfortable with my hearing aids (HAs) at this moment. They do not mean to restore hearing; only to amplify sounds. I am not advertising any HAs here. Choosing HAs is upon the audiologist’s recommendations and the user’s preferences. I know my own preferences very well; this does not mean I can hear speech well. I can speak well, but I have a “deaf” accent. I got to know it through my experiences with many taxi drivers, and GRAB/UBER drivers. The drivers often asked me which country I come from. I replied that I was born in Singapore, and they told me I do not sound like a Singaporean here. They insisted that I might be from the Philippines, Malaysia or Thailand. I told them that I am Deaf…. or “Death” – I might pronounce it wrongly. After showing my HAs to them, they were surprised to know that I am Deaf! Some of them continued chatting with me to know more about deafness in Singapore. That’s another way of promoting deaf awareness to them!
Hmmm, I have considered not having cochlear implants. They are too expensive for me, especially since I am now an adult. I am not comfortable having any metal installed in my head. “Am I going to be another robot? That’s weird!” I thought to myself. Currently, I am okay with my HAs as I can take them off anytime as I wish. Instead of getting the cochlear implants for myself, I’d rather spend money on travelling and other useful/meaningful things, in order to enjoy the rest of my life.
Technology that enables deaf and hard-of-hearing to hear most sounds is ever improving. I think we should welcome that technology as it is meant to enhance/improve our everyday life. Now I explore communication technology, such as speech-to-text, as it helps improve my communication or social skills when meeting people at work.
*Would you like to share your journey or experiences when you were learning in school in a mainstream environment? What were your challenges when you were in school in a hearing environment?
LG: Before I entered my mainstream secondary school, I was enrolled in Canossian School for the Hearing Impaired (CSHI; now renamed Canossian School). I was happier there; we felt no different from one another. I still keep in touch with my schoolmates & classmates because we shared many similar experiences when we were very young. At that time, it was the transition period when we had to switch from using Singapore Sign Language to Natural-Auditory Oral approach (that requires us to speak in a natural environment). This did not benefit all of us; some of us received speech therapy till the teachers trained us through our graduation, while the others did not. I still remember some punishments – if we were caught using sign language, we would be fined 50 cents or be stood outside the classroom. Some teachers slapped us or hit our palms hard.
My struggles started in a secondary school. I had a few deaf classmates, however, we were often isolated. We relied on lipreading only; at that time, we were not aware of our needs – having a sign language interpreter or a note-taker. We did not interact much with the hearing classmates. (READ MORE)
Now, I study a BA in Sociology with Communication at SUSS. I engage sign language interpreters and notetakers to cope better with my lessons. I wish this could happen earlier when I was in the secondary school, and I believe with this access, I could excel better in my studies.
*When did you learn sign language?
LG: Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) was my first language; I acquired it at CSHI since my enrolment at the age of 6. I then learnt the English Language. I learnt to speak with the assistance of speech therapy for almost 13 years. I do not speak SgSL with my family members; mostly I speak in broken English with them.
I learnt more about SEE2 when I was accepted to become the sign language instructor with the Singapore Association for the Deaf. I taught SEE2 there for 8 years. After that, I established ExtraOrdinary Horizons and I now teach Singapore Sign Language to the public. I also give private tuition in SgSL. Anyway, I have studied sign linguistics online (on my own), and attended a few workshops in Singapore and Malaysia.
*Do you think it is necessary/important/better that children with hearing loss learn to sign?
LG: I agree with Alvan; he has mentioned that “it is important for deaf children to acquire language at the same rate as hearing children, and have the same access to language”. As part of ableism, the ability to speak (verbally) is an additional plus-point for Deaf. However, it is not comfortable to make such judgements that might lead to comparisons.
As the World Federation of the Deaf advocates in its mission, every deaf child has the right to Sign Language. Some people may think signing may be a hindrance to speech development; this is actually not true. Still, whatever it takes deaf children to excel, I need to emphasise that language is essential in the early acquisition, let it be signing, speaking or other approaches used. At this moment, I have been tutoring deaf children. They have different needs, and they are different learners. I can tell you based on my experiences, though I am not qualified enough…LANGUAGE FIRST; cognitive development is very essential, so it should start at a very early age.
*How did you appreciate music, especially with your hearing loss?
LG: I learnt music since very young. When I was ten, I was chosen to play in the deaf percussion band, and at that time, that band was being established by a first-timer band instructor who had no experience with the Deaf. I then learnt more about mallet percussion. Actually, musicality comes from you. With my deafness, I still had some of my residual hearing. This varies among different deaf people; some hear better than other counterparts. Musicality means the sensitivity to, and knowledge of music. I rely on seeing, feeling and interpreting music most of the time. I am different from others you might name; Azariah, Beethoven, and Evelyn Glennie. We have our different experiences with music. Unlike them, I did not acquire much of music since very young. Partly because of my deafness. It is really amazing for me to carry it on till now.
Being in the deaf percussion band was really fantastic. Really FUN! When I entered the mainstream secondary school, I was chosen to be in the concert band. Again, by the same teacher. I was assigned to perform the solo song, “Happy Mallets” at that time. I felt more competitive as I knew I was different from hearing musicians. So, I went to the National Library to read up more on music. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me the piano, so I drew many bars, just like the xylophone. I imagined playing bars on these papers virtually. It was not easy for me.
After my poly diploma studies, I resumed my percussion studies. I obtained ABRSM Grades 6 and 8 in Percussion (with Merit) (within 10 months) in 2017. Now I am a member of the Purple Symphony, the only inclusive orchestra of talented musicians with or without special needs. I am the only deaf musician there.
TO BE CONTINUED…
DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.