Life can change unexpectedly – and when it does, it can be devastating.
In her 40s, Michele began to experience a new health issue – and it happened overnight. Michele had previously lost her hearing in one ear 10 years earlier, then suddenly lost almost all of her hearing in the other ear overnight, rendering her close to being completely deaf.
“That evening, I had ringing in my ear. I even asked my husband if there was an alarm going somewhere, but there wasn’t. The next day my hearing in my ‘good’ ear was almost gone,” Michele said.
With so little of her hearing left and finding communicating difficult, unwanted feelings of helplessness had crept in and her confidence was going downhill fast. Michele struggled in her work as a business coach and she started spending most of her time at home. The trouble she faced communicating with her family left her feeling heartbroken and alone.
“I had been going through shock and disbelief that my world would never be the same again. I woke each morning in the hope that I could hear the birds chirping, the alarm clock, or the rustle of the bed sheets, only to wake again each morning in silence,” Michele said.
Even though she was surrounded by a loving family, Michele’s wellbeing was suffering. Michele wound back her social and work life. She stopped mixing with her friends; she stopped attending the regular business networking events she loved; and she stopped engaging with others; and despite her loving husband’s and best friends’ support, Michele was questioning how much she wanted to carry on.
When Michele set an appointment with Professor Marcus Atlas to talk about her hearing loss, she didn’t know it would be a major turning point in her life. Professor Atlas looked at Michele's results and delivered some much-needed good news: Michele qualified for a cochlear implant.
Michele was relieved to have an option and possible escape from her world of silence. She carefully considered the pros and cons of surgery and decided she had nothing to lose. Michele was booked in to the next available surgery date.
As any cochlear implant user will tell you, hearing again with an implant takes dedicated work and long hours of training your brain to hear through the new implant. Rehabilitation can be a tiring task. Luckily her husband was a pillar of strength.
The pair would go to the beach, an incredibly noisy place where the wind whipped around her processor and the waves created a constant noise. They sat back-to-back by the sea as her husband patiently read to her. Michele’s task was to listen hard to his words and repeat sections back to him.
Buoyed by the success of her first implant and the positive change it had on her life, Michele visited Professor Atlas to find out if she qualified for another cochlear implant in her other ear. The good news was she did!
The second implant went as well as the first, and training was a little easier. Over the coming months, the positivity and bubbliness that was slowly coming back was now back in full force.
With two cochlear implants, Michele felt unstoppable.
It was true what they say about life starting at 50. Michele was starting to realise new dreams - she launched her own business as a finance broker, something she had wanted to do but never made the move. She began planning an inspiring book to share her story, an emotional task she had to dig deep for. And finally, she found a new appreciation for the power of a positive attitude in the face of life's challenges. Life had opened up to her, and she was amazed at what she saw.
Michele started entertaining again; she returned to her business networking events; her new business was flourishing. Only, she wasn’t the same woman she was before, even before that morning she’d woken up without hearing. Over the past five years, she’d come face-to-face with her deepest, darkest moments. She’d grown to new emotional heights; she’d felt the limits of her comfort zone and overcame them.
Now, Michele never takes anything for granted.