Alan Soh

I am my own columnist, sharing my own thoughts and recent experiences!

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An Interview with Alan Soh – Part 2

Alan SohNote: The replies given below may differ slightly from what I had given in late July 2014 when the interview was conducted.

Participation in National Day Parade

Qn: When and how did you realise you were hearing impaired?

I was all along a quiet boy and kept a lot of things to myself.
Ever since I was 4 or 5 years old, I’ve already sensed something amiss with my right ear. Because I wondered: “Why is it that everyone can listen and talk on telephone on both ears when I can only do so on my left ear?” However I did not have the guts to tell my parents and family doctor.

I have been communicating with people using my left ear. I attended normal schools.
Things started to get worse when I was a student of ITE Bishan in 1997. I couldn’t hear well on my left ear. Sounds I heard become faint.  I did not see doctor nor even declare this condition when I did the compulsory pre-National Service medical check-up at CMPB (Central Manpower Base).

So I was presumed to be combat fit. My NS PES status was B. Due to fact that I failed my NAFA physical test, I was posted to 2SIR @ Amoy Quee Camp, and was supposed to do my one-month PTP (physical training program) prior to Basic Military Training (BMT). It was during one marching drill session that my platoon commander think that I have trouble listening to drill commands (yes I was!), and so after the session, he dropped me a hint, suggesting me to see the medical officer.

I heeded his advice.  The medical officer @ 2SIR referred me to Tan Tock Seng Hospital to do more check-ups. All medical treatment fees will be borne fully by Ministry of Defence so I was determined to “find out the truth for once and for all”.

My right ear was an inborn dead ear; on the other hand my left ear had suffered hearing loss due to an unknown bacteria infection.

I was later posted out to Sembawang Air Base where I finished serving my National Service. My PES status was downgraded from B to E, and I was exempted for NSman liabilities and IPPT tests.
It was around year 2001 when I purchased a hearing aid from a private vendor.

As for my right ear, I did a cochlear implant surgery in 2011, with the help of Medifund from Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

For anyone’s info, I did not learn any sign language.

Qn: How did you overcome the thought of being different/at a disadvantage?

Thankfully so far nobody has discriminated against me due to my hearing issue.
I still go out to mingle with people.
It is mainly about how I conduct myself and work along with others.
In fact I studied mass communications to learn how to communicate effectively with people around me.

Since National Service, it has always been my habit to make known to anyone whom I will be working with, for the first time, about my hearing issue and take initiative to discuss how to resolve any possible communication barriers.

I realise a lot of things can be discussed and worked out if you are honest about any challenges you might experience.

And that was what I did when I took part in the NDP 2014 PAYM Marching Contingent.

Qn: What is one thing that you think you have missed out on in life that is a direct consequence of your hearing problem?

Rather than missing out anything, I would say I hope to be more daring. I hesitate to try out new things because very often I wonder how others might perceive me. I also wonder: Do I have the ability to do it? Can I really do that?


To be brutally honest, I am self-conscious about my hearing impaired issue, even till today.
Being older now, I start to be more open and lose that self-consciousness.
Life is short, so why should I bother so much?
If I want to do that something, just go for it! Yes, jump in first, talk later! LOL.

Qn: Do you have any quote or principle that you live your life with?

It is your disabled attitude that determines your disability, in which it determines life success. Given our limited lifespan on earth, so we should just get out of our comfort zones to go do what we want to do!

That wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you realise that you are capable of doing that something which you at first initially think you can’t do. This is where your self-confidence starts to grow. =)


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An Interview with Alan Soh – Part 1

This is the prior interview done whereby the production house used my voice as a voice-over accompanying the video snippet produced.

Note: The replies given below may differ slightly from what I had given in late July 2014 when the interview was conducted.

Participation in National Day Parade

Imagine a Parade with no little sounds. Mr Alan Soh marched in the Parade with just that. Being hearing challenged did not deter him to march in this year’s Parade. He overcame odds and difficulties to be on the parade, which is a feat itself definitely, representing the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM).

Qn: What motivates you into joining the NDP 2014 despite your hearing disability?

I have attended National Day Parade as a spectator for about 4 times, the last one being 2011. Was one of the performers with PA (People’s Association) at NDP 2006 which was held at the old National Stadium.

Sometime in April, I received an email from YM office about the recruitment of PAYM Marching Contingent Members for this year’s Parade. I would like to try something different – marching. It has been a good 12 years or so since I last did military marching during my National Service (NS) between 2000 and 2002. I am exempted from NS liabilities upon ORD. Being older now  and given my current hearing conditions, I just want to see whether I am still capable of marching well. Most importantly, I joined NDP 2014 to satisfy my own curiosity as in whether I can hear the Parade commander on stage and execute the marching commands without any hiccup.

In addition, I am currently serving my very last Youth Executive Committee (YEC) term which ends officially in July or August 2015. This could be my very last involvement in a big-scale event in the capacity of a YEC member; therefore I decided to grab this opportunity to take part.

Qn: Who inspired you to join the NDP?

No one. Just myself. I just want to do it.

Ms Karen Foo, Assistant Director of PAYM told me that I am free to opt out if I can’t do it after the first 3 training sessions. There is nothing to lose. So why don’t I give it a try?

It is a matter of now or never…so jump in first, talk later. Hee.

Qn: What are the difficulties you face when rehearsing or during the NDP?

It has been so far so good. Fortunately, no hiccups.

Whenever I embark on a new project or joining a new workgroup, I always make it a habit to be upfront honest about my hearing problem, working out solutions on how we (together as a team) can overcome this problem and minimize any possible misunderstandings that might occur.

My concern is always about effective communication with people around me.

So I make this issue known to everyone including the MINDEF trainers and YM officials when I joined the marching contingent on Day 1.

Difficulties? I was more concerned about deciphering the marching commands and doing it right. It was like doing a refresher course on NS marching.

Many of us especially the younger ones are clueless about NS marching. Nevertheless, our 5 trainers were very patient in teaching everyone the basic marching commands, and how to hold the banner flag pole correctly.

But I do admit that it is quite tough physically to undergo training under the hot sun during the component trainings as well as the combined rehearsals.

Fyi, we rehearsed twice per training session.

Qn: How did the people around you react when they realize that you are hearing impaired?            

No big reactions.

We are all youths. I still look like a normal person and talk normally just like anyone of you.
I tell myself I should be a friendly approachable person who is a co-operative team-player!

Qn: How long have you been doing this for the NDP?

About 5 months. Since Saturday 26 April 2014.

Qn: Will you be doing this again for the following years?

I don’t really know if I have another opportunity like this next year or in future. I hope so.

Maybe something different if I have another chance again? Such as an NDP singer? Hahaha…

To be continued..on my hearing impairment aspect.

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On NDP Stage..

For TV viewers who watched National Day Parade 2014 “LIVE” on television last Saturday evening, you might have thought that the weather was fine.

Of course it was all probably due to the bright stage lights.
Guess what?

Just like National Education Show 2 (19 July), I observed that there were dark looming clouds hovering the spectator stands while standing on stage during the parade segment of NDP Show. Raining soon? Feeling worried that there would be a downpour, so I removed my cochlear implant device discreetly sometime during the part where “We Are Singapore” song was sung. Wearing only just one device. I did prepare a small sealable bag in my attire pocket in case of wet weather.

Before the commencement of the marchpast, my MINDEF trainer Philip Yeo reassured me at backstage “Trust me Alan, it won’t rain..”
Indeed, it didn’t rain at all. Phew.

Some of us including myself were standing at the back rows, in which the giant LED stage screen was right behind us. Despite standing at back rows, we were attentive because we were alerted early by our trainers that the MediaCorp TV cameras may zoom in at us at anytime, not forgetting those mobile TV crew personnel who were walking around on stage.

Everything was smooth during the marchpast. With full concentration.
No hiccups. All 36 of us did an awesome job.

After the marchpast, I heard from PAYM officials that some audience sitting at spectator stands did experience a little tiny drizzle. I wonder: did the NDP organisers did cloud seeding prior to the parade show?

It is certain that I do hear parade commanders’ commands LOUD AND CLEAR with my hearing devices. The music cues from the military band do help me in anticipating what is coming up next. So used to listen to them for 5 months. lol.

So what’s next? I am now looking forward to watching the repeat telecast of National Day Parade 2014, which is to be shown on television in HD this coming Sunday afternoon (17 August). And our 4th and final appreciation dinner coming up soon!

Some of us are already experiencing post-NDP blues…awwww.

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My National Day 2014 Profile

Among the 12,000 participants involved in National Day Parade (NDP) 2014, I am humbled to be one of the 5 selected profiles to be featured on NDP official website under “Singapore Stories” this year.

Yes, I am part of the marching contingent for People’s Association (PA), together with other 13 civilian contingents in the Parade & Ceremony Segment. This year’s PA contingent comprises of 32 energetic youths from People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM).

This is my little NDP profile video.

I am conscious about how people perceive me, not just about my hearing handicap but also about my educational background. I am afterall just a private diploma holder in Mass Communications who finished his secondary school education but went to ITE. So many university graduates around these days. It is always about that “intellectual capability” thingie.
You can even put it this way that ..yes I do feel somewhat inferior.

Along the way especially after National Service (NS) in 2002, I learnt that I am not a perfect human being but I can still strive to be outstanding, so I sought “teachers” to help myself stand out. The experts. In terms of the way how I carry myself or speak etc. I observe and emulate the good ones. I am selective about the kind of friends whom I mix around with. I agree wholeheartedly with this saying – “you are the average of the 5 people whom you often mix around with”.

I joined PAYM at around July 2004, with Nee Soon Central CC Youth Club then.

Nobody is going to help me so I have to do something to help myself. In today’s competitive world, I have to know how to re-invent and put my best foot forward. I think it is important to get rid of the “rules” that are holding me back.

The good thing about growing older is that you begin to be more at ease with yourself and know how to laugh at yourself. And know how to anticipate and remain calm when things still don’t go the way I want (even though I may have planned for different scenarios). Just be prepared for the WORST scenario. If you are well-prepared, you don’t need to be afraid.

I start to form my own life principles. Being older and wiser, I now start to shift my focus to outcomes which I can control. Not things which are not controllable within my means. Such as “do people like me?” Why bother?

If people don’t like me to be their friend, it is okay. I learnt don’t take it too personally. Just move on. If they care to be your friend, you will know it.

I have been taking good care of myself, which is a controllable outcome which might possibly lead me to more opportunities. When you know that you are in a good health state, you are free to go after whatever you want to do in life. 🙂

Upon doing the cochlear implant surgery in 2011 and those aviation tragedies we see in newspapers these few months…it makes me more aware that my time on earth is limited. I don’t know how long more I can live. How many more things I can do or experience? I want to stand on NDP stage to determine and see whether can I do parade and ceremony segment, hence I grab the opportunity when it comes in March and “throw myself into unknown waters.”

ndp interview collage1

So jump in first, talk later. It is about that hunch. I also realise things can possibly work out fine if I open my mouth to discuss my concerns upfront with people.

We should go beyond our comfort zones, daring enough to collect as many life experiences as we want, not things; so that we can still share these stories with our future children one day. As I collect experiences, I also get something extra – confidence, stead, calmness, knowledge, self-esteem, respect and new friends.

I am able-bodied. I can still contribute alot more if people are willing to tap on my capability or expertise.

Outside work, I spent my Saturdays doing contingent trainings/rehearsals since April 2014.

Just want to say “Thank you” to trainers for the support given all this while. I have been giving vocal feedback because I want to let you guys feeling reassured that I am OKAY. I don’t want to be the main worry in your minds. After doing “refresher course”, at least I know now I am not stupid, in the sense that I can understand the marching commands despite a 13-year time gap since NS. Hahaha..

ndp interview collage2

Thank you, PAYM for this opportunity because this could be my last mega event involvement in the capacity of a YEC member before I “retire” in late July 2015. lol. So I tell myself to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT in this 5-month journey.

To the video crew of Little Red Ants Creative Studio, thank you guys for producing this little video snippet.

I hope this video is able to inspire or encourage any fellow Singaporean out there. Do what you want to do. Be what you want to become. Don’t be afraid, okay? 🙂


Today is Eve of Singapore’s 49th National Day. The much-awaited day has come.

Come watch “LIVE” telecast of National Day Parade 2014 at the online webcast at tomorrow, Saturday 9 August at 5.45pm (SG time) onwards.


Little Note: The nicest thing about having done that little NDP video was how some random strangers either came up to me or messaged me via Facebook sharing the kind of feeling this video gave them after watching. Giving some encouragement.

All I can say is to reply “thank you very much, hopefully it encourages you” and probably give a friendly hand-shake if in person. =)