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

You could be opening yourself to shocking misinformation about tinnitus or other hearing problems without ever recognizing it. This as reported by recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Allot more people suffer from tinnitus than you might realize. One out of 5 Americans has tinnitus, so making sure people are given correct, reliable information is important. The web and social media, unfortunately, are full of this type 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 become a member of a tinnitus support community online, you’re not alone. A good place to build a community is on social media. But making sure information is displayed correctly is not well moderated. According to one study:

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

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

What Is Tinnitus?

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.

Prevailing Misinformation About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Social media and the internet, of course, didn’t invent many of these myths and mistruths. But spreading the misinformation is made easier with these tools. A trusted hearing professional should always be consulted with any concerns you have concerning tinnitus.

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

  • Tinnitus can be cured: One of the more prevalent kinds of misinformation exploits the desires of those who suffer from tinnitus. There isn’t a “miracle pill” cure for tinnitus. You can, however, effectively handle your symptoms and retain a high quality of life with treatment.
  • 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. There are some medical issues which could trigger tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing untouched.
  • Changes in diet will improve your hearing: It’s true that your tinnitus can be exacerbated by certain 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 tinnitus can’t be “cured” for good by diet or lifestyle changes.
  • Hearing aids won’t help with tinnitus: Many people assume hearing aids won’t be helpful because tinnitus is experienced as ringing or buzzing in the ears. But newer hearing aids have been designed that can help you effectively regulate your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Loud noises are the only trigger of tinnitus: The specific causes of tinnitus are not really well known or recorded. Many people, it’s true, have tinnitus as an immediate outcome of trauma to the ears, the results of particularly extreme or long-term loud noises. But traumatic brain injuries, genetics, and other factors can also lead to the development of tinnitus.

Accurate Information About 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 can take to try to shield themselves from misinformation:

  • 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? Is this information documented by trustworthy sources?
  • 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.
  • Consult a hearing specialist or medical professional: If you would like to determine if the information is reliable, and you’ve tried everything else, talk to a respected hearing professional.

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said something both simple and profound: “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 alarming misinformation concerning tinnitus and other hearing issues.

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