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

You could be opening yourself to startling misinformation regarding tinnitus or other hearing problems without ever realizing it. The Hearing Journal has recently published research that backs this up. Allot more people suffer from tinnitus than you might realize. One in 5 Americans suffers from tinnitus, so making sure people have access to correct, trustworthy information is essential. The internet and social media, unfortunately, 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 researching tinnitus, or you have joined a tinnitus support group online, you’re not alone. A good place to build a community is on social media. But ensuring information is displayed accurately is not very well regulated. According to one study:

  • 30% of YouTube video results included misinformation
  • 44% of public Facebook groups had misinformation
  • Out of all Twitter accounts, 34% had what was categorized as misinformation

For people diagnosed with tinnitus, this amount of misinformation can present a daunting challenge: Fact-checking can be time-consuming and too much of the misinformation introduced is, frankly, enticing. We want to believe it.

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 called chronic tinnitus when it continues for longer than six months.

Tinnitus And Hearing Loss, Common Misinformation

Social media and the internet, of course, did not create many of these myths and mistruths. But spreading the misinformation is made easier with these tools. You should always go over questions you have about your tinnitus with a reputable hearing professional.

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

  • Loud noises are the only cause of tinnitus: It’s not well known and documented what the causes of tinnitus are. It’s true that extremely severe or long term noise exposure can lead to tinnitus. But traumatic brain damage, genetics, and other issues can also lead to the development of tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus isn’t helped by hearing aids: Because tinnitus manifests as a select kind of buzzing or ringing in the ears, lots of people believe that hearing aids won’t be helpful. But modern hearing aids have been developed that can help you successfully manage your tinnitus symptoms.
  • There is a cure for tinnitus: One of the most common forms of misinformation exploits the hopes of those who have tinnitus. Tinnitus has no miracle cure. There are, however, treatments that can assist in maintaining a high quality of life and effectively organize your symptoms.
  • Your hearing can be improved by dietary changes: It’s true that your tinnitus can be aggravated by certain lifestyle changes (for many drinking anything that has caffeine can make it worse, for example). And the symptoms can be decreased by eating certain foods. But tinnitus can’t be “cured” for good by diet or lifestyle changes.
  • If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will go deaf: It’s true that in certain cases tinnitus and loss of hearing can be linked, but such a connection is not universal. There are some medical concerns which could trigger tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing untouched.

How to Uncover Accurate Facts Concerning Your Hearing Problems

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

  • A hearing specialist or medical consultant should be consulted. If you’ve tried everything else, run the information that you found by a respected hearing professional (if possible one familiar 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. You probably have a case of misinformation if a website or media post professes a miracle cure.
  • Look for sources: Try to get a feel for where your information is coming from. Are there hearing professionals or medical professionals involved? Do trustworthy sources document the information?

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 alarming misinformation concerning tinnitus and other hearing concerns.

If you have found some information that you are not certain of, set up an appointment with a hearing care professional.

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