This 31-year-old audiologist seeks to empower others living with hearing loss
Having received support while growing up with hearing loss, Jackson Chin is driven to help others like him in the same manner.
Within a soundproof room of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, an audiologist guides his patient to put on a pair of hearing aids.
As the patient struggles to describe the new sensation of hearing, senior audiologist Jackson Chin replies with a succinct description – as if speaking with a bucket over the head.
“When they first start to hear, hearing their own voice loudly is a strange sensation,” Jackson says.
The experience of hearing loss is in fact not foreign to him, as he too has lived with the condition for the past 25 years.
As an audiologist, Jackson is a professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems.
After carefully reviewing the patient’s health history and evaluating their hearing, he will determine whether their condition might be medically treatable and give recommendations for audiologic care or treatment, which may include hearing aids, aural rehabilitation or balance therapy.
Though Jackson’s hearing loss upended his childhood dream to be a pilot, the specifics of his condition piqued his curiosity at the age of 15.
Jackson recalls: “My audiologist at the time shared with me that there was a profession called an audiologist, which is why he had been helping me over the last decade.
“And so, I owe it to my own hearing loss to become the audiologist I am today.”
After completing a master’s degree in audiology in Australia, Jackson joined Tan Tock Seng Hospital in 2018.
Currently, a work day for Jackson would entail basic hearing tests and balance tests that require more sophisticated equipment.
Jackson’s duties do not stop at hearing aid evaluations and fittings, but also education and counselling for the patient and family members.
As someone who has been down the same path as his patients, Jackson is able to understand his patients’ needs and difficulties better, especially the pivotal point in which they get to put on their hearing aids for the first time.
Many who come through his doors, he says, seem to be ashamed of the fact they have hearing loss or that they are wearing hearing aids.
He notes: “One of the common misconceptions about hearing loss is that hearing loss equals being deaf.
“But it’s just like if we have a vision problem, we rectify it with a pair of glasses. And if we have hearing loss, we rectify with a pair of hearing aids.”
Better yet, Jackson also shares that the technology of hearing aids over the past five years has improved so quickly, small enough to render it almost unnoticeable when worn.
In his line of work, Jackson also gains insight into the patient’s family relationships and finds ways to plug the gaps.
“Hearing loss often leads to a communication breakdown and subsequently a relationship breakdown,” Jackson says, “Especially now because of the COVID-19 situation, many people are working from home and spend more time together.
“If one has hearing loss, and is not with hearing aid, then they will be shouting at one another.”
In spite of such issues rising because of pandemic conditions, Jackson also feels there’s also a heightened effort in households to detect those with hearing loss.
“Because many with untreated hearing loss need to rely on visual cues to be able to confirm the sounds that they are hearing, the need to be masked takes away the visual component, making it difficult for people with hearing loss to communicate,” he shares.
As a result, he sees much of the younger generation bringing the old into the clinic, as they realise something has to be done about the condition.
At the end of the day, the most rewarding part of the job to Jackson is the bright faces of his patients when they come for their annual follow ups.
He says: “The patient or the family member would tell me that the hearing aid has helped them so much, being able to communicate, socialise, and interact with their family members.
“They don’t miss out on conversation anymore, and that really warms my heart.”
Those who were once withdrawn, Jackson also comments, now come to their follow up appointments being very chatty or interacting with their next-of-kin who comes with them.
In retrospect, Jackson still feels the education and destigmatisation of the condition has a long way to go.
With the annual World Hearing Day on Mar 3, he thinks it is an opportunity to educate the public about hearing loss, including early intervention, protection of hearing and the importance of hearing care.
A campaign by the Office of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness of the World Health Organisation, World Hearing Day’s theme this year is titled “To hear for life, listen with care” and focuses on the importance and means of hearing loss prevention through safe listening.
“Don’t wait too long or wait until it’s too late to seek help,” Jackson advises, “If you think that you or your loved ones has got hearing loss, even if it’s really mild, go for a check.”
In efforts to destigmatise the condition, Jackson says others can show support by being understanding or observant to behaviours.
“For example, if you see somebody trying to hear you or cup their ears to hear you better, you just need to raise your voice a little but do not shout,” he says, “Shouting creates a lot of distortion in your voice and it does not improve the clarity of the two.”
Beyond that, early detection is key and he advises not to hesitate to take a hearing test.
As for people interested in pursuing a similar career, Jackson shares that a master’s degree in audiology can be acquired locally or in Jackson’s case, from Australia.
Jackson finds his job particularly fulfilling as he gets to create meaningful impact. “When you are making a difference in people’s life, you are empowering them, you are helping them to live life to the fullest.
“Being able to hear your loved ones, friends and family around you, that is really priceless.”