You could be opening yourself to startling misinformation regarding tinnitus or other hearing issues without ever recognizing it. This according to recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Tinnitus is remarkably common. Out of every 5 Us citizens one suffers from tinnitus, so making sure people are given accurate, trustworthy information is essential. Sadly, new research is stressing just how pervasive misinformation on the internet and social media can be.
How Can You Find Information About Tinnitus on Social Media?
If you’re researching tinnitus, or you have become a member of a tinnitus support group online, you’re not alone. Social media is a great place to build community. But making sure information is displayed correctly is not well regulated. According to one study:
- Out of all Twitter accounts, 34% included what was categorized as misinformation
- 44% of public Facebook groups contained misinformation
- 30% of YouTube video results contained misinformation
For individuals diagnosed with tinnitus, this quantity of misinformation can present a daunting obstacle: Checking facts can be time-consuming and too much of the misinformation introduced is, frankly, enticing. We want to believe it’s true.
What Is Tinnitus?
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 persists for longer than six months.
Common Misinformation About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Many of these myths and mistruths, obviously, are not invented by social media and the internet. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. A trusted hearing professional should always be consulted with any concerns you have about tinnitus.
Why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged can be better recognized by debunking some examples of it.
- Tinnitus can be cured: One of the more common types of misinformation exploits the hopes of those who suffer from tinnitus. There is no “miracle pill” cure for tinnitus. You can, however, successfully handle your symptoms and retain a high quality of life with treatment.
- Tinnitus is caused only by loud noises: The specific causes of tinnitus are not really well understood or documented. It’s true that really severe or long term noise exposure can lead to tinnitus. But tinnitus can also be connected to other things like genetics, traumatic brain injury, and other factors.
- Your hearing can be improved by dietary changes: It’s true that certain lifestyle issues might exacerbate your tinnitus (for many consuming anything that contains caffeine can make it worse, for example). And the symptoms can be lessened by eating some foods. But tinnitus can’t be “cured” for good by diet or lifestyle changes.
- 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 link is not universal. Tinnitus can be caused by certain conditions which leave overall hearing untouched.
- Hearing aids won’t help with tinnitus: Because tinnitus manifests as a select kind of ringing or buzzing in the ears, many people believe that hearing aids won’t be helpful. But today’s hearing aids have been developed that can help you successfully manage your tinnitus symptoms.
Correct Information Concerning 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 protect themselves from misinformation:
- If the information seems hard to believe, it most likely isn’t true. You most likely have a case of misinformation if a website or media post professes a miracle cure.
- Look for sources: Try to learn what the sources of information are. Was the information written by or sourced from hearing professionals or medical experts? Do dependable sources document the information?
- Check with a hearing specialist or medical professional: If all else fails, run the information that you found by a respected hearing professional (if possible one familiar with your situation) to see if there is any validity to the claims.
The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said something both simple and profound: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Until social media platforms more carefully distinguish information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking techniques are your best defense against alarming misinformation about tinnitus and other hearing concerns.
Make an appointment with a hearing care professional if you’ve read some information you are not certain of.