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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 startling misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing problems. This as reported by recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Tinnitus is remarkably common. Out of every 5 Americans one struggles with tinnitus, so ensuring people are given accurate, reliable information is important. Sadly, new research is stressing just how prevalent misinformation on the web and social media is.

Finding 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 find like minded people is on social media. But there are very few gatekeepers dedicated to ensuring displayed information is truthful. According to one study:

  • 44% of public Facebook groups had misinformation
  • 30% of YouTube video results contained misinformation
  • Out of all Twitter accounts, 34% included what was classified as misinformation

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

Common Misinformation About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Many of these mistruths and myths, of course, are not invented by the internet and social media. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. A trusted hearing specialist should always be consulted with any concerns you have concerning tinnitus.

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

  • If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will lose your hearing: The connection between hearing loss and tinnitus is real but it’s not universal. Tinnitus can be caused by certain conditions which leave overall hearing untouched.
  • Loud noises are the only trigger of tinnitus: The specific causes of tinnitus are not really well known or documented. Many people, it’s true, suffer tinnitus as an immediate result of trauma to the ears, the results of especially severe or long-term loud noises. But tinnitus can also be linked to other things like genetics, traumatic brain injury, and other factors.
  • There is a cure for tinnitus: One of the more common types of misinformation plays on the hopes of individuals who suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. There are, however, treatments that can assist in maintaining a high quality of life and effectively manage your symptoms.
  • Changes in diet will restore your hearing: It’s true that your tinnitus can be aggravated by some lifestyle changes (for many drinking anything that has caffeine can make it worse, for example). And the symptoms can be diminished by eating certain foods. But there is no diet or lifestyle change that will “cure” tinnitus for good.
  • Tinnitus isn’t helped by hearing aids: Many people believe hearing aids won’t be helpful because tinnitus manifests as ringing or buzzing in the ears. Your tinnitus can be successfully controlled by modern hearing aids.

How to Find Truthful Facts About Your Hearing Issues

Stopping the spread of misinformation is extremely important, both for new tinnitus sufferers and for people who are already well acquainted with the symptoms. There are a few steps that people should take to attempt 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? Is this information documented by trustworthy sources?
  • If it’s too good to be true, it most likely isn’t. You probably have a case of misinformation if a website or media post claims to have a miracle cure.
  • A hearing expert or medical professional should be consulted. If you would like to see if the information is trustworthy, and you’ve tried everything else, talk to a respected hearing specialist.

Something both profound and simple was once said by astrophysicist Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Until social media platforms more rigorously separate information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking skills are your best defense against shocking misinformation regarding tinnitus and other hearing issues.

If you have found some information that you are not certain of, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.