Imagine waking up one morning unable to hear anything but the sound of ringing in your ears. For starters, most of us would probably take the day off work to consult a doctor. But for dedicated Business Coach, Michele Alexander (pictured), leaving her clients in the lurch wasn’t an option. Michele went into the office and got down to business, providing coaching for five of her clients before finally consulting a doctor about her sudden hearing loss.
“It was a complete blur,” said Michele. “How I coached five clients, I do not remember, but I did! I think what helped was every session was face-to-face in a small office environment with no surrounding noise, and I could already lip read really well.”
Michele had developed the ability to lip read 12 years earlier when she lost the hearing in her left ear. But even this experience couldn’t have prepared her for the shock of losing the hearing in her right ear as well and then being told that it was permanent.
Michele Alexander really enjoyed her job as an ActionCOACH Business Coach and wanted to continue working. However, she couldn’t use the telephone, so the receptionist had to take detailed messages for her and email quickly became her “lifeline” in terms of communicating with her clients.
But even though she was able to continue coaching her existing clients, Michele wasn’t able to actively try to get new clients through the doors of her ActionCOACH franchise in Perth, Western Australia.
“There were times when I would sit in a corner and just sob with frustration. I was not able to sell and I wasn’t able to follow the 13-step process,” said Michele.
“But we had a fabulous BDM (Business Development Manager) at ActionCOACH and I gained a few new clients during this difficult time that I still have today, over two years later. That certainly tells me that I cannot blame my hearing for ever losing a client.”
Something else that helped her a great deal during this period, was having the other coaches encouraging Michele to be part of the ActionCOACH team. Her coworkers encouraged her to keep sitting in on meetings, and her husband found hearing devices to use with computers and mobile phones to help her work, like a special office phone that interfaced with her hearing aid.
Michele says the doctors were never able to establish the cause of her hearing loss, but her Audiologist was able to offer her hope in the form of a cochlear implant.
“After all the tests confirmed my hearing wasn’t coming back, my audiologist said I was a good candidate for a cochlear implant and my focus was to make it happen. So from being deaf in June, using temporary, almost useless hearing aids up until October, I then had an operation to give me back 60 to 70 percent hearing in my left ear. I coached all my clients Monday through Wednesday, had the operation on Thursday, and was back coaching the following Wednesday.”
More than two years later, the hearing in her right ear still hasn’t returned but thanks to the cochlear implant, Michele now has some hearing in her left ear and with the aid of the various gadgets available for the hearing impaired and computers, she is able to completely focus on the needs of her clients. She is also planning on getting a second cochlear implant for her right ear.
Michele Alexander will never be able to hear perfectly, but with the benefit of hindsight, she is able to remain positive about her experiences. “At least I didn’t go blind. I think losing your eyesight would be much worse and I was also fortunate in that there was treatment available.”
Besides learning to cope with being completely deaf, Michele says she has learned a few other things from the experience as well.
“Being deaf made me use more inventive methods of communication. And my deafness has also taught me to ask for help – and that asking for help is not a weakness, and people do want to help.”
“I have also had to slow down, but that’s not a bad thing. I think a big thing that keeps me going is that I love what I do. I have a purpose, I have great clients, and I have a fantastic support team of family, friends and colleagues.”
If you are looking for business coaching in Perth, you can contact Michele Alexander and her colleagues by telephone on: 08 9398 3045.
If you need business coaching and you reside in another part of Australia or the world, visit the website www.actioncoach.com to find a coach near you.
Michele’s story is one that I found particularly inspiring as I too have experienced a significant hearing loss.
I was born with two perforated eardrums and was completely deaf until the age of six when I received my first plastic eardrum in an operation which restored the hearing in my right ear. After one unsuccessful operation when I was 10 by a general surgeon, another Ears, Nose & Throat surgeon was able to successfully implant a plastic eardrum in my left ear when I was 15. Due to the stuff up by the surgeon who performed the initial operation on my left eardrum, I still have a significant hearing loss in that ear. But I found those around me have found it much more difficult than I have – you would not believe how frustrated people get when I unable to hear them because they are standing on my left side or due to the presence of background noise.
Kids can be incredibly resilient and had I lost my hearing as an adult, I don’t think I would have coped nearly as well as I did when I was a deaf child. But then again, as Michele Alexander’s story shows, we don’t really know what we’re capable of until necessity requires us to be brave.
Shortly after publication of this article, I learned Michele Alexander recently underwent treatment for breast cancer. Despite everything she has been through, Michele remains optimistic about the future, telling Australian Women Online: “My motto for this year is – MY BEST YEAR EVER!”
We wish Michele Alexander a speedy recovery and will follow up with her in a few months to see how she is doing. Michele is still working.