Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Deaf Student Uses Cochlear Implant To Hear, Learn

Gretchen Frazee / WFIU

Grant Phllips interacts with his classmates in his literature class at Covenant Chrtstian High School. Phillips has had a cochlear implant since he was 16 months old, which allows him to hear.

If there were a poster child for cochlear implants, Grant Phillips would be it. When Phillips was born, he was completely deaf. After exploring several options, his parents heard about a new procedure that had been shown to restore hearing loss at a very successful rate.

The first surgeries and FDA studies for cochlear implants, a device that aid hearing by stimulating the cochlea in the inner ear, were taking place right in their hometown of Indianapolis at Riley Hospital. The problem was that the FDA had only approved the surgery for children more than two years old. After consulting with the lead doctor, Dr. Richard Miyamoto, the Philips and hospital agreed to perform surgery on Grant when he was just 16 months old.

The surgery was a success. After recovery process, Grant began to hear and, soon after, speak.

A Rising Debate In The Deaf Community

Grant’s mom Amy worked with her son many hours, helping him accommodate to the device and learning how to translate the sounds he was hearing into comprehensible words.

She says her family have received some criticism for their decision. There have been times when people came up their family and told them that by assimilating Grant into the hearing culture instead of the deaf culture, they were taking away God’s gift.

“We had some runnings into people where we got some viewpoints spoken to us about it. We just respected them, said thank you and moved on,” Amy says.

Since cochlear implants have become more popular, they have fostered a debate about whether children should be mainstreamed in traditional schools or enrolled in schools that provide more assistance and teach in sign language. This year, the Indiana legislature passed a law transferring responsibility for deaf student services from the Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) to a new center for deaf and hard of hearing education. Proponents of the measure said the school focused too heavily on sign language and did not promote oral communication enough.

Adapting To A Hearing World

Grant’s family made the choice to mainstream him in a hearing environment. He is now a senior at Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis, and next year he will attend IUPUI. He says his teachers at Covenant have always been accommodating if for some reason he’s having a hard time hearing what they’re saying.

“They know my needs, so they try and adapt to that,” he says. “I haven’t really had any issues.”

But he also says he isn’t worried about adjusting to a larger college environment—at least not any more than a normal senior would be.

For now, he’s just enjoying his last year with his friends. Grant is close to his peers, so close that they often tease him about his deafness sometimes parroting the Verizon commercial by repeatedly asking him “Can you hear me now?”

“Even I’ll crack jokes about myself sometimes,” Grant says. “I’ll say like ‘What? I’m Sorry I can’t hear you.’ When their talking to me just to make them mad. It’s fun. I like to have fun with it. I don’t see it as an issue.”


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