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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 realizing it. 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 making sure people have access to accurate, trustworthy information is essential. Unfortunately, new research is emphasizing just how pervasive misinformation on the internet and social media can be.

How Can You Find Information About Tinnitus on Social Media?

You’re not alone if you are looking for others with tinnitus. A good place to build a community is on social media. But there are very few gatekeepers dedicated to ensuring disseminated information is accurate. According to one study:

  • 34% of Twitter accounts were categorized as containing misinformation
  • Misinformation is contained in 44% of public facebook pages
  • There is misinformation in 30% of YouTube videos

This quantity of misinformation can be an overwhelming challenge for anyone diagnosed with tinnitus: The misinformation introduced is often enticing and checking facts can be time consuming. We simply 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. If this buzzing or ringing continues for longer than six months, it is called chronic tinnitus.

Tinnitus And Hearing Loss, Common Misinformation

Social media and the internet, of course, didn’t invent many of these myths and mistruths. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. You should always go over questions you have about your tinnitus with a trusted hearing professional.

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

  • Loud noises are the only trigger of tinnitus: It’s not well known and understood what the causes of tinnitus are. Lots of people, it’s true, suffer tinnitus as a direct result of trauma to the ears, the results of particularly harsh or long-term loud noises. But traumatic brain damage, genetics, and other factors can also lead to the development of tinnitus.
  • Changes in diet will improve your hearing: It’s true that some lifestyle issues may exacerbate your tinnitus ((for example, drinking anything that has caffeine can make it worse for many people). And there may be some foods that can temporarily diminish symptoms. But there is no diet or lifestyle change that will “cure” tinnitus for good.
  • There is a cure for tinnitus: One of the most prevalent kinds of misinformation plays on the desires of those who have tinnitus. There is no “miracle pill” cure for tinnitus. There are, however, treatment options that can assist in maintaining a high quality of life and effectively organize your symptoms.
  • If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will lose your hearing: It’s true that in some cases tinnitus and hearing loss can be connected, but such a connection is not universal. There are some medical problems which could lead to tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing untouched.
  • Hearing aids won’t help with tinnitus: Because tinnitus manifests as a certain kind of ringing or buzzing in the ears, lots of people assume that hearing aids won’t be helpful. But modern hearing aids have been designed that can help you effectively regulate your tinnitus symptoms.

How to Uncover Truthful Information About Your Hearing Problems

Stopping the spread of misinformation is incredibly important, both for new tinnitus sufferers and for people who are already well accustomed to the symptoms. There are several steps that people can take to attempt to shield themselves from misinformation:

  • A hearing specialist or medical professional should be consulted. If you’ve tried everything else, run the information you’ve found by a trusted hearing professional (ideally one familiar with your situation) to see if there is any credibility to the claims.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. You probably have a case of misinformation if a website or media post claims to have a miracle cure.
  • Look for sources: Try to find out what the sources of information are. Are there hearing specialists or medical professionals involved? Do trustworthy sources document the information?

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

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

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