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

You could be exposing yourself to startling misinformation regarding tinnitus or other hearing issues without ever realizing it. The Hearing Journal has recently published research that backs this up. Tinnitus is remarkably common. One in 5 Americans struggles with tinnitus, so it’s essential to make sure people have trustworthy, correct information. Unfortunately, new research is emphasizing just how pervasive misinformation on the web and social media can be.

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’re not alone. A great place to find like minded people is on social media. But making sure information is disseminated truthfully is not very well regulated. According to one study:

  • 30% of YouTube video results included misinformation
  • 34% of Twitter accounts were classified as containing misinformation
  • Misinformation is contained in 44% of public facebook pages

For individuals diagnosed with tinnitus, this amount of misinformation can provide a daunting obstacle: Checking facts can be time-consuming and a large amount of the misinformation introduced is, frankly, enticing. We simply 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. This buzzing or ringing is known as chronic tinnitus when it lasts for more than six months.

Tinnitus And Hearing Loss, Common Misinformation

Many of these mistruths and myths, of course, are not created by the internet and social media. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. You need to go over questions you have about your tinnitus with a trusted hearing specialist.

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 some lifestyle problems might exacerbate your tinnitus ((for instance, having anything with 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 forms of misinformation plays on the wishes of people who suffer from tinnitus. There is no “miracle pill” cure for tinnitus. You can, however, successfully handle your symptoms and retain a high quality of life with treatment.
  • Hearing aids won’t help with tinnitus: Lots of people assume hearing aids won’t be helpful because tinnitus manifests as buzzing or ringing in the ears. Your tinnitus can be effectively managed by today’s hearing aids.
  • Loud noises are the only cause of tinnitus: The precise causes of tinnitus are not really perfectly understood or documented. It’s true that extremely severe or long term noise exposure can cause tinnitus. But tinnitus can also be connected to other things such as genetics, traumatic brain injury, and other factors.
  • 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 hearing loss can be connected, but such a connection is not universal. There are some medical problems which could lead to tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing intact.

Correct Information Concerning Your Hearing Loss is Available

Stopping the spread of misinformation is incredibly important, both for new tinnitus sufferers and for those who are already well accustomed to the symptoms. There are a few steps that people should take to try to protect themselves from misinformation:

  • Consult a hearing expert or medical professional: If all else fails, run the information you’ve found by a trusted hearing specialist (ideally one familiar with your situation) to find out if there is any validity to the claims.
  • If the information appears hard to believe, it probably isn’t true. You most likely have a case of misinformation if a website or media post claims to have a miracle cure.
  • Look for sources: Try to find out what the sources of information are. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing professionals 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 rigorously distinguish information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking techniques are your most useful defense against shocking misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing issues.

Make an appointment with a hearing care professional if you’ve read some information you are not certain of.

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