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

You might not realize it but you could be opening yourself to shocking misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing problems. This according to recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Allot more people have tinnitus than you may think. One in 5 Americans suffers from tinnitus, so ensuring people have access to correct, reliable information is important. Unfortunately, new research is emphasizing just how pervasive misinformation on the web and social media is.

How Can You Find Information About Tinnitus on Social Media?

You aren’t alone if you are looking for others with tinnitus. A good place to find like minded people is on social media. But ensuring information is disseminated accurately is not well regulated. According to one study:

  • Misinformation is contained in 44% of public facebook pages
  • There is misinformation in 30% of YouTube videos
  • Out of all Twitter accounts, 34% included what was classified as misinformation

This quantity of misinformation can be an overwhelming challenge for anyone diagnosed with tinnitus: The misinformation presented is often 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. When this buzzing or ringing lasts for more than six months, it is known as chronic tinnitus.

Common Misinformation About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Social media and the internet, obviously, did not invent many of these myths and mistruths. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. You should always discuss concerns you have about your tinnitus with a reputable hearing professional.

Debunking some examples may show why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged:

  • Tinnitus isn’t improved by hearing aids: Many people assume hearing aids won’t be helpful because tinnitus manifests as buzzing or ringing in the ears. But today’s hearing aids have been developed that can help you effectively regulate your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Tinnitus can be cured: One of the most prevalent forms of misinformation exploits the hopes of those who have tinnitus. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. You can, however, effectively handle your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life with treatment.
  • Your hearing can be restored by dietary changes: It’s true that your tinnitus can be exacerbated by some lifestyle changes (for many drinking anything that contains caffeine can make it worse, for example). And the symptoms can be decreased by eating some foods. But tinnitus can’t be “cured” for good by diet or lifestyle changes.
  • Loud noises are the only cause of tinnitus: The specific causes of tinnitus are not really perfectly understood or documented. It’s true that really severe or long term noise exposure can lead to tinnitus. But traumatic brain injuries, genetics, and other issues can also cause the development of tinnitus.
  • If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will lose your hearing: The link between loss of hearing and tinnitus does exist but it’s not universal. Tinnitus can be caused by certain conditions which leave overall hearing untouched.

How to Uncover Accurate Information Concerning Your Hearing Problems

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

  • If the information appears hard to believe, it probably isn’t true. Any website or social media post that claims to have knowledge of a miracle cure is almost certainly little more than misinformation.
  • A hearing specialist or medical professional should be consulted. If all else fails, run the information that you found by a trusted hearing professional (if possible one acquainted with your case) to find out if there is any validity to the claims.
  • Look for sources: Try to find out where your information is coming from. Are there hearing specialists or medical experts involved? Is this information documented by reliable sources?

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said something both simple and profound: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Not until social media platforms more rigorously separate information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking techniques are your most useful defense against startling misinformation concerning tinnitus and other hearing issues.

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

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