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

You could be opening yourself to startling misinformation about tinnitus or other hearing issues without ever realizing it. This based on recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Tinnitus is remarkably common. One in 5 US citizens struggles with tinnitus, so making sure people are given accurate, reliable information is essential. The internet and social media, unfortunately, are full of this type of misinformation according to new research.

Finding Information About Tinnitus on Social Media

If you’re looking into tinnitus, or you have joined a tinnitus support community online, you aren’t alone. Social media is a great place to find like minded people. But making sure information is displayed truthfully is not well regulated. According to one study:

  • 34% of Twitter accounts were classified as containing misinformation
  • 44% of public Facebook groups contained misinformation
  • 30% of YouTube video results included misinformation

For anyone diagnosed with tinnitus, this amount of misinformation can provide a daunting obstacle: The misinformation provided is frequently 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. If this buzzing or ringing continues for more than six months, it is known as chronic tinnitus.

Prevailing Misinformation About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

The internet and social media, obviously, didn’t invent many of these myths and mistruths. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. You need to discuss questions you have about your tinnitus with a reputable hearing professional.

Debunking some examples might illustrate why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged:

  • Tinnitus is triggered only by loud noises: It’s really known and documented what the causes of tinnitus are. It’s true that very harsh or long term noise exposure can cause tinnitus. But tinnitus can also be linked to other things such as genetics, traumatic brain injury, and other factors.
  • Tinnitus isn’t helped by hearing aids: Because tinnitus is experienced as a certain kind of buzzing or ringing in the ears, lots of people assume that hearing aids won’t be helpful. Your tinnitus can be effectively managed by today’s hearing aids.
  • Changes in diet will improve your hearing: It’s true that your tinnitus can be aggravated by some lifestyle changes (for many drinking anything that contains caffeine can make it worse, for example). 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.
  • There is a cure for tinnitus: The hopes of individuals who have tinnitus are exploited by the most common kinds of this misinformation. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. You can, however, successfully handle your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life with treatment.
  • You will go deaf if you have tinnitus, and if you are deaf you already have tinnitus: The link 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 intact.

How to Find Truthful Facts About Your Hearing Concerns

For both new tinnitus sufferers and people well accustomed to the symptoms it’s crucial to stop the spread of misinformation. There are a few steps that people should take to attempt to shield themselves from misinformation:

  • A hearing expert or medical consultant should be consulted. If you want to see if the information is trustworthy, and you’ve tried everything else, run it by a respected hearing specialist.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it most likely isn’t. Any website or social media post that claims to have knowledge of a miracle cure is almost certainly nothing but misinformation.
  • Look for sources: Try to find out what the sources of information are. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing specialists or medical experts? Do reliable sources document the information?

Something both profound and simple was once said by astrophysicist Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Not until social media platforms more carefully distinguish information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking techniques are your most useful defense against alarming misinformation regarding tinnitus and other hearing concerns.

set up an appointment with a hearing care professional if you’ve read some information you are uncertain of.