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. Tinnitus is surprisingly common. One in 5 Americans struggles with tinnitus, so ensuring people have access to accurate, reliable information is important. Unfortunately, new research is stressing just how pervasive misinformation on the internet and social media is.
Finding Information Regarding Tinnitus on Social Media
If you’re researching tinnitus, or you have joined a tinnitus support community online, you aren’t alone. Social media is a very good place to build community. But there are very few gatekeepers dedicated to ensuring disseminated information is correct. According to one study:
- 30% of YouTube video results included misinformation
- Misinformation is contained in 44% of public facebook pages
- 34% of Twitter accounts were categorized as containing misinformation
For people diagnosed with tinnitus, this quantity of misinformation can present a difficult challenge: Fact-checking can be time-consuming and a large amount of the misinformation provided is, frankly, enticing. We 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. This buzzing or ringing is called chronic tinnitus when it lasts for longer than six months.
Prevailing Misinformation Concerning Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Many of these mistruths and myths, obviously, are not created by social media and the internet. But spreading the misinformation is made easier with these tools. A trusted hearing specialist should always be consulted with any concerns you have concerning tinnitus.
Why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged can be better comprehended by debunking some examples of it.
- Tinnitus isn’t improved by hearing aids: Because tinnitus manifests as a select kind of ringing or buzzing in the ears, many people believe that hearing aids won’t help. Your tinnitus can be successfully controlled by today’s hearing aids.
- If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will go deaf: It’s true that in some cases tinnitus and loss of hearing can be connected, but such a connection is not universal. There are some medical issues which could cause tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing untouched.
- Tinnitus is triggered only by loud noises: The exact causes of tinnitus are not always well understood or recorded. Many people, it’s true, suffer tinnitus as an immediate result of trauma to the ears, the results of particularly severe or long-term loud noises. But traumatic brain damage, genetics, and other factors can also lead to the development of tinnitus.
- Your hearing can be restored by dietary changes: It’s true that your tinnitus can be exacerbated by certain lifestyle changes (for many consuming anything that contains caffeine can make it worse, for example). 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: The wishes of people with tinnitus are exploited by the most common types of this misinformation. Tinnitus has no miracle cure. There are, however, treatment options that can help you maintain a high quality of life and effectively organize your symptoms.
How to Uncover Accurate Facts 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. To shield themselves from misinformation there are several steps that people can take.
- Look for sources: Try to get a feel for what the source of information is. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing professionals or medical experts? Do dependable sources document the information?
- A hearing expert or medical consultant should be consulted. If you want to see if the information is trustworthy, and you’ve tried everything else, run it by a trusted hearing professional.
- If the information appears hard to believe, it most likely isn’t true. Any website or social media post that professes knowledge of a miracle cure is probably little more than misinformation.
The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said something both simple and profound: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Not until social media platforms more carefully separate information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking skills are your best defense against alarming misinformation regarding tinnitus and other hearing concerns.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist if you’ve read some information you are not sure of.