J Am Acad Audiol 2019; 30(01): 031-040
DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.17070
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Quality and Readability of English-Language Internet Information for Tinnitus

Vinaya Manchaiah
*   Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX
†   Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, The Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
‡   Audiology India, Mysore, Karnataka, India
§   Department of Speech and Hearing, School of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka, India
Ashley L. Dockens
*   Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX
Ashley Flagge
*   Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX
Monica Bellon-Harn
*   Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX
Jamie Hartwell Azios
*   Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX
Rebecca J. Kelly-Campbell
¶   Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand,
Gerhard Andersson
†   Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, The Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
‖   Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Division of Psychiatry, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
26 May 2020 (online)



Because of the wealth of information available on the internet and increasing numbers of individuals relying on websites as a primary source of information for health-related questions, it is important that the readability of their content is within the comprehension level of most readers.


The study evaluated the quality and readability of English-language Internet information for tinnitus.

Research Design:

Analysis of Internet websites on tinnitus.

Study Sample:

A total of 134 websites with tinnitus information.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Three key words (i.e., tinnitus, ringing in the ear, and buzzing in the ear) were entered in five country-specific versions of the most commonly used internet search engine in August 2016. For each of the 15 searches, the first 20 relevant websites were examined. After removing duplicates, a total of 134 websites were assessed. Their origin (commercial, nonprofit organization, government, personal, or university), quality (Health On the Net [HON] certification and DISCERN scores), and readability (Flesch Reading Ease score, Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Level Formula, and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook) were assessed.


Most websites were of commercial (49.3%) or nonprofit organization (38.8%) origin. Their quality and readability was highly variable. Only 13.5% of websites had HON certification. χ2 analysis showed that there was significant association between website origin and HON certification [χ2(4) = 132.9, p < 0.0001]. The mean DISCERN scores were 2.39. No association between DISCERN scores and website origin was found. Readability measures showed that on average, only people with at least 10–12 yr of education could read and understand the internet information for tinnitus in websites. Almost all the websites exceeded the most stringent reading level recommended for health information.


The results highlight great variability in the quality and readability of health information, specifically for tinnitus in the internet. These findings underscores the need for stakeholders (e.g., web-developers, clinicians) to be aware of this and to develop more user-friendly health information on websites to make it more accessible for people with low literacy.


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