A PROFOUNDLY deaf Northwich teenager who has battled depression and anxiety wants to inspire others to turn their lives around.

Shannon Lees-Pearce, from Wincham, is one of 44,000 people aged between 17 and 29 who need hearing aids.

The 19-year-old was bullied as a child due to struggling with her speech and hearing, and in recent years has battled with depression and anxiety as a result of her condition.

“Since I was a child, I have suffered with psoriasis, which covered my entire body and my inner ears so I struggled to hear properly,” Shannon said.

“But, aged 10 I started to slur certain letters and sounds. Because of this, I was bullied at school and not given extra support in lessons. This was frustrating as I loved learning.

“I often felt stupid and unhappy.

"I even taught myself to lip read in a bid to communicate with the people around me as I struggled to understand accents and couldn’t keep up with conversations happening in front of me.”

It wasn’t until the age of 16 that Shannon was diagnosed as having a profound hearing loss.

She said: “I remember the day I was told about my deafness. It was a complete shock, it hadn’t crossed anyone’s mind that I was deaf – I was devastated and just cried.

“As no one in my family had a hearing loss, it came completely out of the blue.

“My first hearing aids were so uncomfortable and overwhelmingly loud.

"I hated wearing them and couldn’t cope with the volume of the world around me – I had never felt so isolated.”

After struggling to adapt to the hearing aids, Shannon’s parents decided to take her to be assessed privately.

Shannon's speech had deteriorated to the point that she was told that if she didn’t wear her hearing aids, she was at risk of losing the ability to speak at all.

She said: “After my first consultation, a new pair of hearing aids were on their way. They came two weeks later and were fitted – that was the moment everything changed for me.

“Once they were switched on, I was mesmerised by all the sounds I could hear clearly for the first time ever – my dad’s voice, the sound of the traffic and even my own voice – as I’d never heard my own voice properly before it was so overwhelming I cried.”

After accepting her diagnosis, Shannon began working closely with Deafness Support Network (DSN) and now is learning British Sign Language (BSL) and is helping with volunteering and fundraising activities.

“Once I was introduced to DSN, so much changed and getting involved was one the best things I’ve ever done," she said.

“Organisations such DSN deserve more support and recognition for the difference they make. “They make people like me who have spent years in isolation feel wanted and valued. They make us understand that we’re not different.”

Gill Reeder, DSN operations director, said Shannon was a 'real inspiration'.

She said: "She’s typical of the one-in-six people in the UK who find their lives affected by hearing loss.

“Many experience a sense of denial, anger, the fear of being seen as different and a resistance to wearing hearing aids.

“Shannon is one of the thousands that DSN helps each year and she is one of the many who has overcome her challenges to lead a full and fulfilling life and help others in the process."