Felipe, L., Beukes, E.W., Fox, B.A. & Manchaiah, V.
Journal of Vestibular Research, 30(2):63-72. doi: 10.3233/VES-200698
Publication year: 2020

Background: The Internet has become a powerful, accessible resource for many patients to use for their own medical management and knowledge. Vestibular disorders affect all genders and ages with the odds increasing significantly with the years. As the Internet is increasingly a major source of health-related information to the general public, it is often used to search for information regarding dizziness and vertigo. Ensuring that the information is accessible, unbiased and appropriate can aid informed decision-making.  It is important to evaluate the quality of this information, since it is unknown. Objective: To evaluate the quality and readability of English-language Internet information related to vestibular disorders. Method: A cross-sectional website search using three keywords (nausea, dizziness, and vertigo) in five country-specific versions of the most commonly used Internet search engine was conducted in March 2018. The language was limited to English for all websites. Quality was assessed by presence of Health on the Net (HON) certification and DISCERN scores. Readability was assessed using the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula (F-KGL), and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG). Results: In total, 112 websites were included and analyzed. The majority was of commercial (61%) websites. A total of 42% had obtained HON certification. No association was found between the presence of HON certification and source of the website. The DISCERN scores had a mean of 2.52 (SD 1.1). Readability measures indicated that an average of 14–18 years of education was required to read and understand the Internet information provided regarding vestibular disorders. Conclusions: To ensure the accessible to the general population, it is necessary to improve the quality and readability of Internet-based information regarding vestibular disorders.