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

You could be exposing yourself to shocking misinformation about tinnitus or other hearing problems without ever recognizing it. This based on recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Tinnitus is surprisingly common. Out of every 5 Americans one suffers from tinnitus, so it’s important to make certain people have trustworthy, accurate information. The internet and social media, sadly, are full of this type of misinformation according to a new study.

Finding Information About Tinnitus on Social Media

You’re not alone if you are searching for other people who have tinnitus. Social media is a great place to find like minded people. But there is very little oversight focused on ensuring disseminated information is truthful. According to one study:

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

This quantity of misinformation can be an overwhelming obstacle for anyone diagnosed with tinnitus: The misinformation provided is usually enticing and checking facts can be time consuming. We simply 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. When this buzzing or ringing lasts for more than six months, it is known as chronic tinnitus.

Common Misinformation Concerning Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Social media and the internet, obviously, didn’t invent many of these myths and mistruths. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. You should always discuss questions you have about your tinnitus with a reputable hearing specialist.

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

  • Your hearing can be improved by dietary changes: 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 can’t help with tinnitus: Because tinnitus manifests as a select kind of buzzing or ringing in the ears, many people presume that hearing aids won’t help. Your tinnitus can be effectively controlled by modern hearing aids.
  • You will go deaf if you have tinnitus, and if you are deaf you already have tinnitus: The link between loss of hearing and tinnitus does exist but it’s not universal. There are some medical issues which could cause tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing intact.
  • Tinnitus can be cured: One of the most prevalent forms of misinformation exploits the wishes of individuals who have tinnitus. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. You can, however, successfully handle your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life with treatment.
  • Tinnitus is caused only by loud noises: The exact causes of tinnitus are not really perfectly known or recorded. Many people, it’s true, suffer tinnitus as a direct outcome of trauma to the ears, the results of especially extreme or long-term loud noises. But traumatic brain damage, 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 people who are already well acquainted with the symptoms. There are several steps that people can take to try to shield themselves from misinformation:

  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Any website or social media post that professes knowledge of a miracle cure is almost certainly nothing but misinformation.
  • A hearing expert or medical consultant should be consulted. If all else fails, run the information that you found by a respected hearing professional (ideally one acquainted with your situation) to see if there is any credibility to the claims.
  • Look for sources: Try to get a feel for what the source of information is. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing specialists 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 separate information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking skills are your most useful defense against shocking misinformation concerning tinnitus and other hearing concerns.

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