BACKGROUND: When people with health conditions begin to manage their health issues, one important issue that emerges is the question as to what exactly do they do with the information that they have obtained through various sources (eg, news media, social media, health professionals, friends, and family). The information they gather helps form their opinions and, to some degree, influences their attitudes toward managing their condition.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to understand how tinnitus is represented in the US newspaper media and in Facebook pages (ie, social media) using text pattern analysis.
METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study based upon secondary analyses of publicly available data. The 2 datasets (ie, text corpuses) analyzed in this study were generated from US newspaper media during 1980-2017 (downloaded from the database US Major Dailies by ProQuest) and Facebook pages during 2010-2016. The text corpuses were analyzed using the Iramuteq software using cluster analysis and chi-square tests.
RESULTS: The newspaper dataset had 432 articles. The cluster analysis resulted in 5 clusters, which were named as follows: (1) brain stimulation (26.2%), (2) symptoms (13.5%), (3) coping (19.8%), (4) social support (24.2%), and (5) treatment innovation (16.4%). A time series analysis of clusters indicated a change in the pattern of information presented in newspaper media during 1980-2017 (eg, more emphasis on cluster 5, focusing on treatment inventions). The Facebook dataset had 1569 texts. The cluster analysis resulted in 7 clusters, which were named as: (1) diagnosis (21.9%), (2) cause (4.1%), (3) research and development (13.6%), (4) social support (18.8%), (5) challenges (11.1%), (6) symptoms (21.4%), and (7) coping (9.2%). A time series analysis of clusters indicated no change in information presented in Facebook pages on tinnitus during 2011-2016.
CONCLUSIONS: The study highlights the specific aspects about tinnitus that the US newspaper media and Facebook pages focus on, as well as how these aspects change over time. These findings can help health care providers better understand the presuppositions that tinnitus patients may have. More importantly, the findings can help public health experts and health communication experts in tailoring health information about tinnitus to promote self-management, as well as assisting in appropriate choices of treatment for those living with tinnitus.