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Title What can we learn about tinnitus from social media posts? Abstract Objectives: Individuals with tinnitus are highly heterogeneous in terms of etiology, the manifestation of symptoms, and the way they manage their condition. Most of these patients are likely to seek hearing health information and social support online via various websites or social media platforms. Indeed, information is easily accessible online. Further, in absence of evidence-based tinnitus care, patients with similar symptoms can regroup, share experiences, and exchange tips. Even after consultation with healthcare providers, some of the patients continue seeking information online when they feel they did not get satisfying information about treatment options and/or about their prognosis. The present study was aimed at examining the discussions around tinnitus in Reddit posts using various Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. We examined the free-texts posts to understand the types of conversation about tinnitus in an online forum and the way in which people with tinnitus reach out to other people for support (informational, emotional, etc.) when coping with their conditions. Design: The study used a cross-sectional design. A search was performed using keywords such as “tinnitus” to identify threads specifically discussing tinnitus. Data from these threads were extracted using the Reddit application programming interface (API) with a custom-built script, resulting in a corpus of 130,000 posts. After cleaning the data for posts without any text and duplicates, a text corpus with 101,000 posts was built which was analyzed using various automated NLP techniques including (a) hierarchical cluster analysis; (b) unsupervised machine learning (ML) - Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) algorithm; and (c) supervised sentiment analysis. Results: The cluster analysis resulted in a 16-cluster solution. Some of these clusters have information that has been discussed in relation to tinnitus from previous qualitative and social media studies (e.g., causes, factors influencing tinnitus, hope for a cure, coping), although some clusters identified discussion around new themes that were not discussed in previous literature (e.g., supplements, personal timeline). The LDA analysis identified a 16-factor solution, and these results were comparable to the cluster analysis. Further, the sentiment analysis showed that there was a statistically significant difference in sentiments among different factors. Conclusions: The current study results suggest that examination of free-text responses in social media messages helps uncover new dimensions about tinnitus that have not been discussed in the literature. As Reddit posts are anonymous and written with the user’s own wish, it is likely that the ecological validity of such data is high. The current study findings help develop appropriate patient-centered strategies to support individuals with tinnitus. Meeting Times Interactive Presentation Session May 3, and additional discussion sessions on May 4 and May 5. Contact Dr. Vinaya Manchaiah, Jo Mayo Endowed Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Lamar University, Texas;
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