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 realizing it. This according to recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Allot more people suffer from tinnitus than you might recognize. One in 5 Americans has tinnitus, so ensuring people have access to correct, trustworthy information is important. The internet and social media, sadly, are full of this type of misinformation according to new research.

Finding Information About Tinnitus on Social Media

If you’re researching tinnitus, or you have become a member of a tinnitus support group online, you’re not alone. Social media is a great place to build community. But there is very little oversight dedicated to ensuring disseminated information is correct. According to one study:

  • There is misinformation in 30% of YouTube videos
  • Misinformation is found in 44% of public facebook pages
  • 34% of Twitter accounts were classified as containing misinformation

For people diagnosed with tinnitus, this amount of misinformation can provide a daunting obstacle: The misinformation provided is usually enticing and fact checking can be time consuming. 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 persists for longer 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 discuss concerns you have about your tinnitus with a trusted hearing professional.

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

  • Tinnitus isn’t improved by hearing aids: Lots of 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.
  • Tinnitus is triggered only by loud noises: The precise causes of tinnitus are not really well known or documented. It’s true that extremely extreme or long term noise exposure can cause tinnitus. But traumatic brain damage, genetics, and other issues can also result in the development of tinnitus.
  • You will go deaf if you have tinnitus, and if you are deaf you already have tinnitus: It’s true that in some cases tinnitus and hearing loss can be linked, but such a connection is not universal. There are some medical problems which could cause tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing intact.
  • Your hearing can be improved by dietary changes: It’s true that your tinnitus can be exacerbated by some lifestyle changes (for many drinking anything that has caffeine can make it worse, for example). And the symptoms can be decreased by eating some foods. But there is no diet or lifestyle change that will “cure” tinnitus for good.
  • Tinnitus can be cured: One of the more common kinds of misinformation plays on the hopes of those who suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. There are, however, treatment options that can assist in maintaining a high standard of life and effectively handle your symptoms.

Correct Information About 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. There are several steps that people should take to try to shield themselves from misinformation:

  • Look for sources: Try to find out what the sources of information are. Are there hearing professionals or medical professionals involved? Is this information documented by dependable sources?
  • Check with a hearing specialist or medical professional: If all else fails, run the information you’ve found by a respected hearing professional (ideally one familiar with your situation) to see if there is any validity to the claims.
  • If the information seems hard to believe, it most likely isn’t true. You probably have a case of misinformation if a website or media post professes a miracle cure.

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said something both simple and profound: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Until social media platforms more rigorously distinguish information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking skills are your best defense against startling misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing issues.

If you have found some information that you are uncertain of, set up an appointment with a hearing care professional.

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