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

You might not realize it but you could be opening yourself to shocking misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing issues. This as reported by recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Tinnitus is surprisingly common. One in 5 US citizens has tinnitus, so making sure people have access to accurate, trustworthy information is essential. The internet and social media, sadly, are full of this type of misinformation according to new research.

Finding Information Regarding Tinnitus on Social Media

If you’re looking into tinnitus, or you have joined a tinnitus support group online, you aren’t alone. Social media is a great place to find like minded people. But there is very little oversight focused on ensuring displayed information is accurate. According to one study:

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

For people diagnosed with tinnitus, this amount of misinformation can present a daunting obstacle: The misinformation provided is usually enticing and fact checking can be time consuming. We want to believe it’s true.

Tinnitus, What is it?

Tinnitus is a common medical condition in which the person suffering hears a buzzing or ringing in one’s ears. When this buzzing or ringing lasts for more than six months, it is known as chronic tinnitus.

Prevailing Misinformation About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

The internet and social media, obviously, did not invent many of these myths and mistruths. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. A trusted hearing professional should always be consulted with any questions you have concerning tinnitus.

Why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged can be better recognized by exposing some examples of it.

  • Loud noises are the only cause of tinnitus: The exact causes of tinnitus are not really perfectly understood or recorded. Lots of people, it’s true, suffer tinnitus as a direct outcome of trauma to the ears, the results of especially severe or long-term loud noises. But tinnitus can also be linked to other things like genetics, traumatic brain injury, and other factors.
  • Changes in diet will improve your hearing: It’s true that your tinnitus can be aggravated by certain lifestyle changes ((as an example, drinking anything that has caffeine can make it worse for many people). And there may be some foods that can temporarily diminish symptoms. But there is no diet or lifestyle change that will “cure” tinnitus for good.
  • Tinnitus can be cured: One of the most common types of misinformation plays on the desires of individuals who have tinnitus. Tinnitus has no miracle cure. There are, however, treatments that can assist in maintaining a high standard of life and effectively manage your symptoms.
  • You will go deaf if you have tinnitus, and if you are deaf you already have tinnitus: The connection between loss of hearing and tinnitus is real but it’s not universal. There are some medical concerns which could trigger tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing untouched.
  • Tinnitus isn’t helped by hearing aids: Because tinnitus is experienced as a select kind of ringing or buzzing in the ears, many people think that hearing aids won’t help. Your tinnitus can be effectively controlled by modern hearing aids.

Correct Information Concerning Your Hearing Loss is Available

Stopping the spread of misinformation is incredibly important, both for new tinnitus sufferers and for people who are already well acquainted with the symptoms. To protect themselves from misinformation there are a few steps that people can take.

  • If it’s too good to be true, it most likely isn’t. Any website or social media post that professes knowledge of a miracle cure is probably little more than misinformation.
  • Look for sources: Try to find out what the source of information is. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing professionals or medical experts? Do trustworthy sources document the information?
  • A hearing specialist or medical professional should be consulted. If all else fails, run the information you’ve found by a trusted hearing specialist (if possible one familiar with your case) to find out if there is any credibility to the claims.

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said something both simple and profound: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Until social media platforms more rigorously separate information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking techniques are your most useful defense against alarming misinformation concerning tinnitus and other hearing concerns.

If you have read some information that you are unsure of, make an appointment with a hearing care professional.

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