Hearing Loss Not Stopping Youth from Leading a Fulfilling Life

A passionate advocate for the deaf, youth leader in the Boy’s Brigade (BB), and an avid sports enthusiast. These are some of the hats worn by 21-year-old Elliot Teng, one [...]

A passionate advocate for the deaf, youth leader in the Boy’s Brigade (BB), and an avid sports enthusiast. These are some of the hats worn by 21-year-old Elliot Teng, one of the recipients of the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities.

At the age of two, Elliot was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss in both ears. His condition has now deteriorated to a severe-profound level. Without his hearing aids and cochlear implant, there would only be silence in Elliot’s world.

Elliot enjoys playing team sports since young and was also scouted for rugby. Despite showing great potential in the sport, eventually he had to give that up as the head contact common in rugby may cause him to lose the rest of his hearing. But this did not stop the optimistic young man from pursuing other sports like football and floorball, which he excelled in.

“I’ve always had a positive outlook to life but as I grew older, I also realised that there is no need to be ashamed because there are many more opportunities for me. I’ve invested myself fully in any co-curricular activities I join, and I never dwell on missed opportunities,” he said.

When removing his hearing aids during games, Elliot relies on his game sense and lip-reading to interpret what is going on around him. He also came up with ways to signal to his teammates and coaches during games.

His resourcefulness extends into other areas of his life as well. In school, Elliot does not shy away from asking for help from teachers and friends.

“I’ve learnt to be very vocal and upfront about my confusion in class. I’m not afraid to clarify things that I have missed out and I also check with my classmates to ensure that I’ve got the right information. Educating my friends and my teachers about my needs and how they can help me have definitely helped as well, because they will look out for me,” he shared. Besides sports, Elliot also devotes his time to advocate for the deaf community. Since secondary school, he has spoken at several events, such as parent support groups in hospitals, where he shared his story to allay parents’ concerns about raising a deaf child. He also represented Singapore at the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section Junior Camp in 2017. There, he exchanged ideas with youths from around the world on spreading awareness of deaf culture and raising the confidence of deaf children.

Elliot in BB uniform addressing other BB Boys
Elliot as an Officer for his BB Company in 2020

He is also an active volunteer officer in the BB. He joined the BB in 2013 as a wing commander, where he led 60 cadets. Elliot was also awarded the Senior Proficiency Award, having passed assessments such as adventure skills, first aid, drills and life skills. He stayed on to serve in the BB in junior college as a Primer, helping to develop the next generation of cadets. Today, he remains as an Officer in his alma mater, continuing to lead and grow a new wave of young leaders.

To broaden his horizons, he went abroad to do a six-month course before the start of university, part of which included a three-month mission trip to Africa. During the Circuit Breaker last year, he signed up as a Foodpanda rider and the 2-month stint was made enriching by the people whom he met from all walks for life. He had one memorable experience where a passer-by saw him waiting for an order and kindly bought him a coffee. This reminded him of the goodness that exists in people, however, he acknowledges that he is in a better position than many fellow riders and tries to pay it forward every time he sees the opportunity to. He currently goes on shifts occasionally when he is free, to remind him of some of the forgotten heroes of the pandemic.

When asked about his motivation to study Law at the Singapore Management University, he said: “Justice and fairness are values that I identify with very early on in my growing up years, and I enjoy reading a good true crime book. I realised that studying law is a way to be part of that system, to be in a position to help those who need help, and also to always believe in the goodness of people, that people are not beyond help.”

Elliot wants to encourage fellow persons with disabilities to stay true to their dreams and never falter from setbacks along the way.

“It is through trials that we come out stronger. So never see difficulties as something that shows weakness but see them as a chance to improve yourself,” he said.

“My hope for the [disabled] community is that they can be proud of who they are, and that people will realise that we’re just built differently. There’s no need to pity us, because what looks like our disability, oftentimes, is part of our strength.”

Inspired by Elliot’s journey? You can join him and the rest of the scholars by applying for the APB Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities here. Application ends 18 June 2021.