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

You may not know it but you could be opening 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. One out of 5 Americans has tinnitus, so it’s important to make sure people have trustworthy, accurate information. The web and social media, unfortunately, are full of this type of misinformation according to a new study.

Finding Information About Tinnitus on Social Media

If you’re looking into tinnitus, or you have joined a tinnitus support community online, you’re not alone. A good place to find like minded people is on social media. But making sure information is disseminated accurately is not very well moderated. According to one study:

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

This amount of misinformation can be an overwhelming challenge for anyone diagnosed with tinnitus: Checking facts can be time-consuming and a large amount of the misinformation provided is, frankly, enticing. We simply 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. If this buzzing or ringing persists for longer than six months, it is known as chronic tinnitus.

Common Misinformation Concerning Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Many of these mistruths and myths, obviously, are not invented by the internet and social media. But spreading the misinformation is made easier with these tools. You should always discuss questions you have about your tinnitus with a reputable hearing professional.

Debunking some examples may demonstrate 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 aggravated by some lifestyle changes (for many drinking anything that contains caffeine can make it worse, for example). And the symptoms can be lessened by eating certain foods. But there is no diet or lifestyle change that will “cure” tinnitus for good.
  • If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will go deaf: The connection between loss of hearing and tinnitus is real but it’s not universal. There are some medical concerns which could lead to tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing untouched.
  • There is a cure for tinnitus: One of the most common types of misinformation exploits the desires of individuals who suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. You can, however, effectively handle your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life with treatment.
  • Hearing aids won’t help with tinnitus: Lots of people assume hearing aids won’t be helpful because tinnitus manifests as ringing or buzzing in the ears. But modern hearing aids have been designed that can help you successfully regulate your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Loud noises are the only cause of tinnitus: It’s really known and understood what the causes of tinnitus are. Lots of people, it’s true, suffer tinnitus as an immediate outcome of trauma to the ears, the results of particularly harsh or long-term loud noises. But tinnitus can also be connected to other things such as genetics, traumatic brain injury, and other factors.

How to Find Truthful Information About 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 shield themselves from misinformation there are a few steps that people can take.

  • Check with a hearing expert or medical professional: If you’ve tried everything else, run the information that you found by a trusted hearing specialist (if possible one familiar with your situation) to find out if there is any validity to the claims.
  • Look for sources: Try to determine what the sources of information are. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing specialists or medical experts? Do dependable sources document the information?
  • If it’s too good to be true, it most likely isn’t. Any website or social media post that professes knowledge of a miracle cure is almost certainly nothing but misinformation.

Something both profound and simple was once said by astrophysicist Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Until social media platforms more rigorously distinguish information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking techniques are your most useful defense against alarming misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing issues.

Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional if you’ve read some information you are not sure of.

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