He lost hearing, but found footing

Mr Anthony Loh (seated) gained confidence and found a new job with social worker Brian Khor's help.
Mr Anthony Loh (seated) gained confidence and found a new job with social worker Brian Khor's help.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mr Anthony Loh, 52, was heading home from church in 2012 when he suddenly felt dizzy and could not keep his balance.

He rested in bed at home, but felt the ceiling was spinning. His elderly mother rushed him to hospital, where Mr Loh was found to have lost his hearing. Four months later, he went for cochlear implant surgery.

It helped him to hear again, but life was hardly the same. "I was depressed and self-conscious about the implant," he said in Mandarin.

The device works by sending sounds through a magnetic transmitter worn at the back of the head directly to an implant inside the head, which sends signals to the brain.

It was hard to get used to. Voices sounded different. Even now, he cannot distinguish voices if more than one person talks at the same time.

He found himself becoming angry more often and broke up with his girlfriend of three years.

His father also suffered a stroke that year.

Depressed, Mr Loh later quit his job as a graphics designer at a signage company in March 2013 because he found the stress unmanageable.

For 1-1/2 years, he was jobless and hardly left home, embarrassed about the implant.

He drained his five-figure savings to pay for household expenses, as well as his father's and his medical bills. It was social worker Brian Khor from the iEnable programme who helped him back to his feet, said Mr Loh.

"The financial assistance helped, but you know how they always say that you've got to teach a man to fish? In the early days, Mr Khor watched me cry and listened to me. Then he forced me to leave the house so that I'd get used to being seen with the implant," said Mr Loh.

He gradually regained confidence and his mood improved. iEnable matched him to a part-time job as a quality control officer at Singapore Post, with Mr Khor accompanying him for interviews to provide support and make sure his employer understood his condition.

He said: "Without SG Enable's help, I really don't know where I'd be today. Perhaps staying at home, still jobless. My dad died last month and while I'm sad, I'm stronger now and coping better than when I lost my hearing."

Kok Xing Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'He lost hearing, but found footing'. Print Edition | Subscribe