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Survey Finds 'Woodstock Generation' Experiencing Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is often misdiagnosed or missed altogether. A new Harris Poll survey suggests nearly half of older adults who listened to loud music when they were younger now experience hearing loss.

More than 1,000 people between the ages of 65 and 80 were surveyed. These are people from the so-called "Woodstock generation," and music, according to the survey, was something that was important to 71% of them.

Dr. Nimit Agarwal is the chief of geriatrics at the University of Arizona. He said he sees a lot of challenges when it comes to treating hearing loss.

"One of the biggest reasons being, the diagnosis gets missed; second, when people understand that they might have hearing loss it can be a little bit of a stigma for them, they could feel embarrassed by it," he said.

He also said cost is another big factor. He said hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars and insurance does not always pick up the tab.

70% of those with hearing loss said they wish they could still experience music the way they did when they were younger, and nearly half said they don’t enjoy music as much as they used to because of it.

Piper Laird is a music therapist at Banner University Medical Center. She said her job is to find music that might appeal to people with hearing loss.

"Not necessarily louder, but perhaps lower in key or in pitch that allows them to then be able to enjoy the music because we’re taking out some of the areas, and not producing music in the areas that they have the hearing loss in," she said.

Besides the toll hearing loss can take on listening to one’s favorite band, Dr. Agarwal said ignoring hearing loss could lead to social isolation, depression, even cognitive impairment.

The Harris Poll was commissioned by Oticon, a hearing device manufacturer.

Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.