As a young girl, Lily McManus struggled to understand her hearing loss, a condition often associated with the elderly.
Worlds away from the confident and outgoing personality seen on TV screens since 2017, the now-23-year-old says she often felt isolated growing up and says embarrassment is common for young people living with hearing impairment.
"For having to wear hearing aids, for having to ask people to repeat themselves constantly, for missing jokes, feeling 'slow' and separated for having a disability associated with old age," she explains to Newshub.
At the age of 12, McManus was diagnosed with profound high-frequency hearing loss which takes away a lot of sounds from speech.
This not only has a physical impact, but a heavy effect on mental health, making social situations often challenging and exhausting.
She describes her hearing loss as if it were a milkshake.
"Confusion would be the milk, frustration would be the ice cream and unsolicited sadness would be the chocolate sauce."
Throughout her life, McManus discovered little resources existed for people her age and had no role models to identify with, leaving her uncertain about what her future had in store.
The answer for many, of course, is hearing aids. But a pair of high-quality hearing aids can cost between $6000 and $10,000- an unattainable price tag for many who end up going without, resulting in their physical, mental and social health to decline.
When McManus was given a brand new set of hearing aids after purchasing some only six months prior, she turned to her social media audience of more than 149,000 to find them a new home.
The response was overwhelming.
"I received a lot of messages from people telling me their stories about how they themselves or a loved one needed hearing aids but were going without due to the lack of financial support from the government," McManus says.
"I guess I knew people were going without, I just wasn’t exactly sure of the extent."
McManus says it was a lightbulb moment of how prevalent the issue is in Aotearoa.
Her hearing aids found a well-deserved home but she says she couldn't help but wonder, what about everyone else?
As a youth ambassador for The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, she teamed up with the charity to create the Hearing Aid Fund.
"I’ve felt it every day of my life and to know that other people are out there suffering without the equipment I’m fortunate enough to have. I really wanted to do something about it."
One hundred percent of donations go directly towards helping New Zealanders afford the life-changing equipment that they need.
"Hearing aids are so important, I can’t emphasize it enough. People deserve the right to be able to take responsibility for their own health regardless of their financial situation," says McManus.
She hopes her new initiative will make the world a slightly easier place to live for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
While McManus' hearing is declining slowly, it’s a bit of a mystery to audiologists as to why or what can be done to slow it down.
"I’m just taking it day by day," she says. "I'm very appreciative of the hearing that I have. I plan to enjoy it whilst it’s here.
"I think the more we can speak about it, the more people will understand and be considerate of those who are struggling."
Donations and applications for the Hearing Aid Fund Grant can be made through the National Foundation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s website at www.nfd.org.nz and close on August 31, 2020.