Brady Allio is just like any other high school senior. He is on the swim team, dance team and a member of the high school yearbook.
The only difference is he is deaf. He doesn’t let that slow him down.
“I think I can do pretty much anything I want to,” Brady said during a recent interview.
The 18-year-old, a senior at Thunder Mountain High School, was born deaf. He uses Cochlear implants — which he received at age 6 — that allow him to hear.
Cochlear implants do not restore hearing per se, but rather give people “sense of sound,” according to U.S. Department of Health &Human Services website. That means he can understand some simpler sentences, and that he can understand the words of those he is around a lot, such as his family and friends. The rest of the time, he relies on an interpreter and lip-reading.
“No one treats me any differently because of the implants,” Brady said. “No one cares.”
The implants themselves consist of two main parts. There is an external portion that looks like the letter “C’ that goes around his ear. It consists of a microphone, a speech processor and a transmitter that all take in sound and convert it to electric impulses. The second portion is surgically placed underneath his skin. It consists of a group of electrodes that collect impulses and sends them to different regions of the auditory nerve, which detects sound in the brain.
He remembers the first time he heard music. He said it was “weird” because he had never heard anything like that before. While he cannot make out all the words that are sung, he can feel the beat. And he can find a rhythm.
Inspired by his sister who was taking dance classes, he began dancing himself at at 9, by joining up with a local group TAFY, or The Arts For Youth Dance Studio.
Initially, his mother would interpret the dances for Brady, and he would imitate her. As he got older, he was able to hear better and could feel the the beat even more. He also picked up dance moves from watching fellow dancers alongside him.
Now, Brady dances hip-hop, jazz and acro dancing. He memorizes the steps in the count to the dance. During practice, routines and performances, Brady would normally have his interpreter — Amber O’Hara — there. The days he does not, it’s because that’s what he wants, his mother, Heather, explained.
“It’s really amazing to watch Brady dance,” Heather said. “If you did not know he was deaf, you would have no idea by watching him dance. He is truly a very gifted dancer.”
Brady said he has always had an interest in dance and said it has helped him be more comfortable being himself.
“I just like to express myself,” Brady said.
One of Brady’s coaches before he entered high school, Mika Morford, of TAFY, said Brady’s work ethic and personality made him a great fit as a dancer.
“Brady is always a delightful person,” Morford said. “You would not think that dance would be for someone with a hearing disability, but he was always focused and dedicated. He always amazed me with his hard work and his great energy.”
In the pool, Brady — who began swimming at the age of 3 — has to remove the outside portion of the Cochlear device. Because of this, he must rely on his eyes to get a good jump off the blocks and into the pool. Brady times his leap by watching the light on the side of the pool. When it flashes red, he springs into action. This past year he was also a member of the dive team.
“It can be a little tricky competing,” Brady said. “I just focus on my laps and how many I have to do. I just really enjoy competing”
Scott Griffith, a swim coach at Glacier Valley Swim Club, said Allio has always been confident in his bility to compete in the pool.
“I don’t think he ever felt constricted,” said Griffith, who has coached Brady since he was 5. “He would just watch the person in front of him. He pretty much did everything visually.”
Brady’s mother Heather has always encouraged Brady and his brother, Dylan, 20 — who is also deaf — to participate in any activity they wanted to. Dylan was was also on the TMHS swim team and received his implants at age 9 on the same day as Brady. The U.S. Department of Health &Human Services said “About two to three out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.”
Heather said the implants for both her sons’ cost $80,000 each and that most of the expense was covered by insurance. What was not covered by insurance was paid for by Shriners International after Heather mentioned the surgery to the Shriners and they offered to pay the rest of the bill.
Brady’s family — including his parents and grandparents — have learned American Sign Language. Heather said watching her daughter, Alyssa, 14 — who is not deaf — interact with with Brady and Dylan is just like watching any other teenage siblings get along.
“It can be pretty entertaining watching her signing with her brothers,” Heather said. “She can keep right up with them.”
After Brady graduates from high school, he will be joining his brother at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) this fall where he will be enrolling in the photography arts program. He said his two years working on the school yearbook helped influence his future plans. Brady said he mostly enjoys photographing people, sports and abandoned places.
“I would like to be a photojournalist or photographer in LA (Los Angeles),” he said.
Brady will be attending National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT which is designed specifically to offer advanced education for those who are deaf.
“I have never been to a deaf school,” he said. “I wanted to have that experience.”
He hopes to be an example of perseverance for anyone, not just those with a disability.
“You should just be proud of yourself,” he said. “Try things that make you happy.”
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.