Living With Hearing Impairment

Josiah Tan 01

(Josiah Tan, New Life Baptist Church)

Josiah Tan (white)I was diagnosed with profound hearing loss when I was very young, and was fitted with cochlear implants when I was 2. My parents were afraid that I might never learn to speak properly. Nevertheless, they were determined that I should go through mainstream schools, and by God’s grace, I coped well in school, learnt to live normally with my implants, and even served my National Service.

Living with cochlear implants definitely comes with its challenges. For one, I have to charge them every night, and have to rely on a vibrating alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. When I participate in sports or other outdoor activities, I have to take special care to protect my cochlear implants from damage, as they are not waterproof and cannot be exposed to water, rain, or excessive sweat. Conversations around the table in noisy environments such as a school canteen or a crowded restaurant are also difficult for me, and it is hard to hear beyond those sitting to my immediate left or right. It is also harder for me to appreciate music. I do enjoy popular songs and can follow the melodies, but after I once signed up for guitar class, I had to pull out when I realised I had difficulty distinguishing between the different chords.

Despite it all, from young, I have been determined that my disability should not be a handicap, and that it should not hamper my desire to live life to the fullest. I love sports and adventure activities, and I run and play soccer regularly. This journey of living with hearing impairment has also taught me many valuable lessons. For example, I’ve learnt to appreciate my friends especially, as I depend on them to watch my back and help me out if I miss out on something in class.

When I turned 18, I was told that I was automatically exempted from National Service (NS) on account of my hearing loss. However, I was also informed that I could appeal against the decision, if I really wanted to serve. After thinking hard about it, I decided to appeal, because I wanted to obey the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law; to have clean hands and a pure heart. God blessed me as a result of my decision. I had the privilege to work in an environment that blended many of the things I was passionate about: politics, geography, history, and military strategy. By God’s grace, I also found favour in the eyes of my superiors and my peers, and had a fruitful two-year stint in the army.

God has been ever-present in my life, faithfully guiding and protecting me, and it brings me great joy to serve Him in various ministries. Since my JC days, I have been actively serving in the Boys’ Brigade, first as a Primer and then as an Officer. I serve because everything I do in the course of my service reminds me of God and draws me closer to Him. There is something special about serving others, for when we serve others, we serve God. Only when we serve others can we learn to love God, know God and grow in God. “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)

I believe that God meant us to have life to the full. To me, this means always seeking to emulate Christ by living a life of service, humility, excellence, righteousness and, above all, love. While many times I fail to live up to it, as I worship and walk with God, I’m encouraged by the Bible’s promise that as Christians we will go from strength to strength, and be transformed into Christlikeness, with ever-increasing glory. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV)


(So Mun Bin, Josiah’s mother)

So Mun Bin (white)Like most couples in love, we were excited about starting a family, and even planned our child’s name way in advance. If we were to have a boy, we would call him Josiah, after King Josiah who followed after God’s heart.

Our dream came true 2 years after our marriage when Josiah was born. We felt led to choose Isaiah 40:31 as his life verse: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV) His Chinese name 毅腾, “to persevere and soar like an eagle”, is derived from the verse. Little did we know that in time to come, his name would prove to be of great significance.

When Josiah was 9 months old, we were shocked to find out that our precious first-born was hearing-impaired. By 15 months old, his hearing loss had deteriorated from moderate to profound. We were utterly devastated that our son could not hear us and was living in a silent world. We wept over the hardship he would face and worried about his future.

Somehow, a little ray of hope broke through those dark days. The Lord brought to our remembrance that Josiah in Hebrew means ‘Jehovah has healed/Jehovah supports’, and 毅腾 reminds us that those who persevere in the Lord will soar above all difficulties. We clung to God’s word and His promises with what little faith we could muster.

Josiah was fitted with hearing aids followed by a cochlear implant at 2 years and 9 months old. While some kids his age were already speaking in sentences, he still could not call me “mummy”.  We prayed and prayed for a breakthrough, and talked to him and taught him new words at every opportunity. Slowly but surely, our little boy made progress. He spoke his first words, his speech became clearer, and his vocabulary grew. One by one, he surmounted every new challenge in life. He made friends in school, he learnt to swim & canoe with the help of sign language, he aced his PSLE and A-levels, and he became a leader in the Boys’ Brigade and church.

Our God is great and He is faithful to His word. Jehovah has healed and supported Josiah. He has enabled him to soar above his disability and overcome his challenges. Today, Josiah is a compassionate, capable and confident young man. We pray that like King Josiah, he will always follow after God with all his heart and all his soul and all his might. And may the works and power of God continue to be displayed and seen in his life. All glory unto God!

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