In this age of dating, you’re able to meet people over apps having never talked to them in person. In this age of technology, a cochlear implant recipient who has had their implant nearly all their life doesn’t feel the need to tell a soon-to-be-date that they have a cochlear implant. With a swipe right, this is where Grayson S. and Brynne T.’s love story starts: 

“Even though I’m a Hoosier, my ‘accent’ leads people to assume that I’m a foreigner. Telling people that I’m deaf always made the situation unnecessarily awkward; sometimes it’s more convenient to say, ‘Yes! I’m from Luxembourg!’ Few would believe me, some laugh and the rest will start speaking German, French or Luxembourgish.

However, I grew up in Indianapolis and lost my hearing due to pneumococcal meningitis at 10 months old. At the time, cochlear implants had just been approved for ages 2 and up, but I wasn’t cleared for surgery until my fifth birthday.

After I received my Cochlear Implant, I had at least a decade of speech and listening therapy I went through with my implant and with several Cochlear sound processor upgrades. Luckily for me, cochlear implant technology innovations have advanced dramatically over the past two decades, allowing deaf people to connect with others more than ever before, via computers, cell phones, texting and, most importantly for me, Tinder.

A beautiful ‘ginger’ named Brynne appeared on my Tinder account one day when I was going through the dating app. Luckily, we both swiped right, but neither of us realized with that simple action we embarked upon a new journey.

When we first connected, Brynne was studying for her nursing exam and wouldn’t meet me until afterwards. (She now works at Riley Children’s Hospital as a pediatric cardiac nurse.) In fact, I mentioned my hearing loss and that I was a ‘Riley Baby’ (I went there for my health care when I was little), but I didn’t go into detail about my cochlear implant because it didn’t occur to me to explain any further. Consequently, Brynne wondered, ‘Could he speak? Do I need to try to learn sign language or bring pen and paper?’

We set our first date at a popular burger restaurant, Brynne’s favorite. Unbeknownst to me, she arrived 30 minutes early hoping to get a table outside but ended up getting seated under the loudspeakers. She fretted over the blaring music.

On the other hand, I parked in a shady neighborhood, grabbed my briefcase so nobody would steal it, and because of the summer heat wave, I absent-mindedly pocketed deodorant instead of my wallet as I headed into the restaurant.

Brynne wore a stunning blue dress. I couldn’t wait to introduce myself. While on my way over, I tripped over a dog, and my briefcase walloped a few heads as I turned around to apologize to the dog’s owners. Hopefully, this memorable impression demonstrated my ability to apologize quickly and not get kicked out. Brynne admitted later, she knew she was in for an adventure unlike anything she experienced.

Our lives changed since, but not without challenges!

Brynne later told me that after our first date, she activated the subtitles on her television. This was a big deal for me because Brynne has dyslexia, which signified her willingness to get used to reading on the television. Now, she admits that it’s hard to watch TV without the subtitles!

Additionally, Brynne is one of the five sisters in her family, and they have the incredible capacity to hold five simultaneous conversations. Sometimes this can be physically draining for me, even with my cochlear implant. However, when I got my Nucleus® 6 upgrade, which included the Mini Microphone that eliminates the background chatter and pinpoints on the person talking directly to me, it helped tremendously! Brynne and her sisters are all aware though of my mantra: ‘You have the luxury of perfect hearing, and I get to decide who I want to hear.

Fast forward from the swipe right, our first date, and now we’re getting married in a couple of months! Brynne asked our photographer to include my cochlear implant and her engagement ring in our pictures because, frankly, we like our bling. We cannot wait to get married, and my groomsmen will carry rechargeable batteries to ensure I hear Brynne say, loud and clear, ‘I do.’”

For more information to help your child with hearing loss, visit IWantYouToHear.com. If you’re an adult with hearing loss looking for more information, visit Cochlear.com/US.

Renee Oehlerking

Renee Oehlerking is the Public Relations Manager at Cochlear Americas where she is responsible for the region’s public relations and consumer marketing social media. Renee enjoys uncovering, telling and showcasing the inspiring stories of hearing implant recipients. As a recent transplant to Denver, Colorado, Renee enjoys exploring all that the state has to offer outdoors.