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

You might not realize it but you could be exposing yourself to shocking misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing problems. The Hearing Journal has recently published research that backs this up. Allot more people have tinnitus than you may realize. Out of every 5 Americans one struggles with tinnitus, so making sure people have access to correct, trustworthy information is important. Sadly, new research is emphasizing just how pervasive misinformation on the internet and social media is.

Finding Information Regarding Tinnitus on Social Media

If you’re looking into tinnitus, or you have joined a tinnitus support group online, you’re not alone. Social media is a great place to find like minded people. But making sure information is disseminated correctly is not well moderated. According to one study:

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

This quantity of misinformation can be a daunting obstacle for anyone diagnosed with tinnitus: The misinformation introduced 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. If this buzzing or ringing persists for more than six months, it is called chronic tinnitus.

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 discuss concerns you have about your tinnitus with a reputable hearing specialist.

Exposing some examples might demonstrate why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged:

  • Tinnitus isn’t improved by hearing aids: Many people believe hearing aids won’t be helpful because tinnitus is experienced as ringing or buzzing in the ears. But today’s hearing aids have been developed that can help you effectively manage your tinnitus symptoms.
  • There is a cure for tinnitus: The hopes of people who have tinnitus are exploited by the most prevalent forms of this misinformation. There is no “miracle pill” cure for tinnitus. You can, however, effectively manage your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life with treatment.
  • Tinnitus is caused only by loud noises: It’s really known and understood what the causes of tinnitus are. It’s true that extremely harsh or long term noise exposure can cause tinnitus. But traumatic brain damage, genetics, and other issues can also cause the development of tinnitus.
  • Your hearing can be restored by dietary changes: It’s true that certain lifestyle issues might aggravate your tinnitus (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.
  • You will lose your hearing if you have tinnitus, and if you are deaf you already have tinnitus: The link between hearing loss and tinnitus does exist but it’s not universal. Tinnitus can be triggered by certain illnesses which leave overall hearing intact.

Accurate Information About Your Hearing Loss is Available

For both new tinnitus sufferers and people well acquainted with the symptoms it’s crucial to stop the spread of misinformation. There are a few steps that people can take to try to protect themselves from misinformation:

  • Look for sources: Try to find out where your information is coming from. Are there hearing specialists or medical experts involved? Do trustworthy sources document the information?
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Any website or social media post that claims to have knowledge of a miracle cure is probably little more than misinformation.
  • A hearing expert or medical professional should be consulted. If you’ve tried everything else, run the information that you found by a trusted hearing specialist (preferably one familiar with your situation) to find out if there is any validity to the claims.

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

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

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