Asta loves playing guitar, but loves nothing more than to jam together with his deaf daughter Talia, who uses a cochlear implant. We chat with Asta to find out what music means to their relationship.
“Acceptance was difficult. It came slowly.”
Tell us about your family and Talia!
We are a family of four—me & and my wife Juli, my 2 children Talia and Isa. Talia is 12 years old and is our eldest child, and has hearing loss. Isa is 9 years old and has normal hearing. My kids quarrel a lot like normal siblings but they love each other’s company too.
How did you feel when you first found out Talia has hearing loss?
There was this huge disappointment, and a hopeless feeling. Naturally we began asking questions— why, how, and all of that. Looking back, these are natural reactions and questions. What mattered was what we did, how we did it, and finding the correct people to talk to. It was tough for Juli. She was on maternity leave and depressed. I had to go back to work so my mind managed to escape the problems for a while.
Acceptance was difficult. It came slowly. Families and people react based on how we break the news so it was important, but tough too, to stay confident that we know what to do. We busied ourselves the first few months with a lot of appointments, reading, that kind of thing. One day we were at a clinic and this young kid was screaming to his mom because he was still in the toilet and his mum was asking him some things in Chinese. It was a cute conversation. Then he came out and we saw he had implants! That set us into overdrive mode to try very hard for Talia. After trying out hearing aids, which helped her get used to the weight on her ears, Talia got her implant when she was 10 months old.
“It’s a father and daughter thing, and also a hearing and non-hearing person thing.”
How did Talia first get into music and why?
It was difficult to know if Talia was getting sound access to the high frequencies. Our audiologist suggested that we play piano to Talia since it’s the easiest way to create some high frequency sounds. I play the guitar myself so this idea of playing music to her came naturally for me. I did wonder though how Talia would perceive a musical sound or note from an instrument. It didn’t bother me, and we signed her up for music appreciation class. She was in a classroom of 10 students, playing the keyboard, learning basic notes, dancing and singing. I enjoyed watching the class because it was holistic and not focusing too much on mastering an instrument.
Was it important for you that Talia has an interest in music?
It was important for Talia to have an interest in music because I know that music exposure can help children’s learning. I reflected on that we all learn the alphabet through a song, and I wasn’t at all focused on turning Talia into a professional musician. When it was suggested for Talia to learn the piano, we figured why not, since music appreciation is good for a child’s development.
“Supporting Talia to play music is the biggest irony for me, and it’s a really pleasant experience.”
What does it mean to you that Talia can play music?
At the moment, Talia wants to go for her Grade 5 or 6 piano exams. This is a very big milestone for me watching her grow up. Even our son with normal hearing has chosen to pursue sports instead of continuing with piano. It shows that regardless of hearing condition, every child has their own motivation, interest, hobbies and desires. We need to support Talia in any way we can. Supporting Talia to play music is the biggest irony for me, and it’s a really pleasant experience. Also, I get to jam with her—this is an experience I really cannot describe! It’s a father and daughter thing, and also a hearing and non-hearing person thing.
Can you share some specific special moments or experiences that were memorable in Talia’s hearing journey so far?
Her first word was “air” (pronounced “ahyer”). It means water in Malay. She said it to her Grandpa because he kept pointing to puddles of water every time he took her out for a walk. We were esctatic! Her next word was “Ahbah”, another Malay slang for Dad. That’s what I call my father-in-law actually. We didn’t care what words she said as long as she started saying some! Another important milestone was going to day care center when she was a toddler. We led the way by showing to her teachers how important it is that she wears her implant in school, and we told them that we really needed their support. Our hearing clinic also helped by visiting the center and giving advice to Talia’s teachers.
“My biggest hope is she turns into the most confident person all the time and that her abilities are only hindered by her own imagination.”
What was the process like for Talia in learning an instrument?
We just took Talia along for the weekly music appreciation class and made sure she enjoyed the activities. We did lots of exaggerated movements to keep her occupied, just like for any other kid. When Talia won a place at Beats of Cochlea, I figured since I need to accompany her I might as well play along with her. I’m very proud of her.
What do you hope to see Talia doing in the future?
I don’t care if Talia’s interests change. Of course, it would be good if she would play my favorite metal or rock songs on the piano—that would be better wouldn’t it? No, just kidding—what matters is that I will always try to support her. My biggest hope is she turns into the most confident person all the time and that her abilities are only hindered by her own imagination.
Are you interested in learning to enjoy music despite your hearing loss? Check out these 10 tips for music appreciation from a cochlear implant user.
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