GREENFIELD, Tenn. — Greenfield sophomore Caroline Crouse wears a headband while playing basketball to protect a device that none of her teammates have to wear.
Her brother, senior Jackson Crouse, knows that if his falls out while he’s playing basketball, he tucks it in his shirt until the next timeout.
They were born deaf and fitted for cochlear implants early in life. Even though there are still times when they can’t hear everything that is said to them, they have adapted.
“Most people are surprised because if you look at me, you can’t tell,” Caroline said. “Most of the people that I have grown up with have always known.
“People think it is worse than it really is. When you have had this your entire life, you adapt to it. I don’t know any different.”
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that turns sounds into electric signals that the brain can interpret. The sound processor fits around and in the ear, while the implant is on the side of the skull.
Hearing in day-to-day life can be tough, but on the basketball court or in the classroom, it can be even tougher.
“Hearing may be more difficult for me than my classmates and teammates, but I can read lips,” Caroline said. “Usually my teachers put me in the front, but even if I am in the back, I can read lips.
“I have to always look at my coach. There have been times that I have missed a play call, but I just do it right the next time down the floor.”
And when the crowd is loud, hearing it is even tougher.
“Jackson has an understanding of his capabilities and what to look for and when to look for them,” boys basketball coach Chad Levister said. “Anytime there is a break, he makes sure to look at me. I have been around him long enough that he can pick out my voice when anything is being said.”
Caroline has a friend in Reese Biggs who she relies on. Greenfield girls coach Willie Trevathan knows that if he says something, Biggs will make sure it gets to Caroline.
“Communication is something that we all have to work at with her,” Trevathan said. “She does a good job looking for all of us to tell her if we are making an adjustment. Reese has grown up with Caroline her whole life, so when we call something in, Reese comes over to make sure Caroline knows.”
There was never a question about letting the siblings play sports. The Crouse family is a basketball family as their father, Stephen, and his brother Jeff Crouse were members of the 1984 Greenfield boys basketball team that won a state championship.
“Sports is a big part of my husband’s family for sure,” said Stephen’s wife, Tiffany. “We did ask (the doctors) how dangerous it would be. They said football would be the most dangerous, so we never steered Jackson toward football.”
Jackson, who also plays baseball, was fitted for his cochlear implant when he was 3, and for Tiffany, that was tough for her first born.
“With Jackson, we were a bit more concerned because we had never dealt with that,” Tiffany said. “I didn’t even know anyone who had a cochlear implant.”
Jackson and Caroline wear their cochlear implants unless they are showering or sleeping. Growing up, Jackson showed his friends and classmates what the implant did, and many were surprised.
“They can’t believe how great the cochlear implant works,” Jackson said. “When I have it off, I am deaf, but they are amazed when I put it on and can hear.”