Background: People are increasingly using social media outlets for gathering health-related information. There has also been considerable interest from researchers and clinicians in understanding how social media is used by the general public, patients, and by health professionals to gather health-related information. Interest in the use of social media for audio-vestibular disorders has also received attention, although published evidence synthesis of this use is lacking. The objective of this review was to synthesize existing research studies related to social media use concerning hearing loss, tinnitus, and vestibular disorders.
Method: Comprehensive searches were performed in multiple databases between October and November 2020 and again in June 2021 and March 2022 with additional reports identified from article citations and unpublished literature. The review was presented using the PRISMA guidelines.
Results: A total of 1,512 articles were identified. Of these, 16 publications met the inclusion criteria. Overall, social media offered people the platform to learn about hearing loss, tinnitus, and vestibular disorders via advice and support seeking, personal experience sharing, general information sharing, and relationship building. Research studies were more common on information and user activities seen on Facebook pages, Twitter, and YouTube videos. Misinformation was identified across all social media platforms for each of these conditions.
Conclusions: Online discussions about audiovestibular disorders are evident, although inconsistencies in study procedures make it difficult to compare these discussion groups. Misinformation is a concern needing to be addressed during clinical consultations as well as via other public health means. Uniform guidelines are needed for research regarding the use of social media so that outcomes are comparable. Moreover, clinical studies examining how exposure to and engagement with social media information may impact outcomes (e.g., help-seeking, rehabilitation uptake, rehabilitation use, and satisfaction) require exploration.