Man looking up information on tinnitus in social media on his cell phone.

You could be opening yourself to shocking misinformation about tinnitus or other hearing issues without ever recognizing it. The Hearing Journal has recently published research supporting this. Tinnitus is surprisingly common. One out of 5 US citizens has tinnitus, so it’s important to make sure people have trustworthy, correct information. The internet and social media, sadly, are full of this kind of misinformation according to a new study.

How Can You Find Information About Tinnitus on Social Media?

If you’re looking into tinnitus, or you have become a member of a tinnitus support community online, you aren’t alone. Social media is a very good place to build community. But ensuring information is displayed truthfully is not very well regulated. According to one study:

  • 30% of YouTube video results included misinformation
  • Misinformation is found in 44% of public facebook pages
  • Out of all Twitter accounts, 34% contained what was classified as misinformation

For anyone diagnosed with tinnitus, this quantity of misinformation can provide a daunting obstacle: Checking facts can be time-consuming and too much of the misinformation presented is, frankly, enticing. We want to believe it’s true.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a common medical condition in which the person suffering hears a buzzing or ringing in one’s ears. This buzzing or ringing is called chronic tinnitus when it continues for more than six months.

Tinnitus And Hearing Loss, Common Misinformation

Many of these myths and mistruths, obviously, are not created by social media and the internet. But spreading the misinformation is made easier with these tools. You should always go over concerns you have about your tinnitus with a reputable hearing professional.

Exposing some examples may illustrate why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged:

  • Your hearing can be improved by dietary changes: It’s true that certain lifestyle problems might exacerbate your tinnitus ((as an example, having anything that has caffeine can make it worse for many people). And there may be some foods that can temporarily diminish symptoms. But tinnitus can’t be “cured” for good by diet or lifestyle changes.
  • Tinnitus isn’t helped by hearing aids: Many people believe hearing aids won’t be helpful because tinnitus manifests as ringing or buzzing in the ears. Your tinnitus can be effectively managed by today’s hearing aids.
  • If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will lose your hearing: It’s true that in certain cases tinnitus and loss of hearing can be connected, but such a link is not universal. Tinnitus can be caused by certain illnesses which leave overall hearing intact.
  • Tinnitus is caused only by loud noises: It’s really known and documented what the causes of tinnitus are. Many people, it’s true, have tinnitus as a direct outcome of trauma to the ears, the results of especially extreme or long-term loud noises. But traumatic brain damage, genetics, and other factors can also lead to the development of tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus can be cured: One of the most common forms of misinformation plays on the wishes of individuals who have tinnitus. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. You can, however, effectively manage your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life with treatment.

How to Uncover Accurate Information About Your Hearing Problems

For both new tinnitus sufferers and those well acquainted with the symptoms it’s essential to stop the spread of misinformation. There are several steps that people should take to try to protect themselves from misinformation:

  • Look for sources: Try to learn what the sources of information are. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing specialists or medical experts? Is this information documented by reliable sources?
  • Consult a hearing specialist or medical professional: If you’ve tried everything else, run the information that you found by a respected hearing specialist (if possible one acquainted with your case) to see if there is any credibility to the claims.
  • If the information seems hard to believe, it most likely isn’t true. Any website or social media post that professes knowledge of a miracle cure is almost certainly nothing but misinformation.

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said something both simple and profound: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Not until social media platforms more carefully separate information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking skills are your most useful defense against startling misinformation concerning tinnitus and other hearing issues.

Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist if you’ve read some information you are unsure of.

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