It is very common to hear people say, “I’ll ask Google” or “I wonder if there is a Facebook page or anything on YouTube about that” when trying to find information on a particular topic of interest.
Those searching for information on tinnitus are no different.
A study published in January 2019 by O’Brien et al., entitled “Tinnitus Awareness and Misinformation on Social Media”, looked into the types of information about tinnitus and the accuracy of the information provided on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
Of note is the large number of people who search for information on social media and the large number of search results across these three popular social media platforms. 49.2% of search result items for keywords “tinnitus” and “ringing in the ears” included in the study by the reviewers (for criteria, see study methods) were found on Facebook, 36.5% on YouTube, 8.4% on Twitter and 5.9% on Facebook Groups. This is concerning as 42.7% of the Facebook information was considered by the reviewers to be ‘misinformation’.
Facebook Groups could be considered to be more beneficial as 59.5% of the information in here related to support groups. As the majority of these groups are closed, it is difficult to get a true evaluation of the accuracy of the information provided in these groups. YouTube offers tinnitus management videos. When the search results were sorted by ranking, rather than the default ‘relevance’, the most pertinent and accurate videos could be found.
So, what can you do as a clinician to help guide your clients through this vast amount of information on the internet? There are many things that you can do. These include:
- Be aware of the level of misinformation provided by social media and inform your clients about it. For example, there are many people who claim to have a pill which cures tinnitus. Your clients should be made very aware that there isn’t a cure; there is only treatment options to allow them to cope with their tinnitus.
- Have accurate information on hand to provide to tinnitus patients and their significant others.
- Point your clients in the direction of Facebook groups which could be useful as a support mechanism.
- If your client is interested in tinnitus management videos through YouTube, they should be encouraged to sort the results via ranking as some useful videos can be found there.
- Find out if there are any local tinnitus support groups. If so, and if the information they are sharing is of good quality, share contact information or recommend their websites.
It’s good to find ways to link research with practice – we hope these suggestions, inspired by this journal article, help to achieve this.
OʼBrien, C., Deshpande, A. K., & Deshpande, S. (2019). Tinnitus Awareness and Misinformation on Social Media.The Hearing Journal, 72(1),18.