The Utilization of Social Media in the Hearing Aid Community Purpose This study investigated the utilization of social media by the hearing aid (HA) community. The purpose of this survey was to analyze the participation of HA community in the social media websites. Method A systematic survey of online HA-related social media sources was conducted. Such sources were ... Clinical Focus
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Clinical Focus  |   March 01, 2017
The Utilization of Social Media in the Hearing Aid Community
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Moumita Choudhury
    Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
  • Zoë Dinger
    Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
  • Elena Fichera
    Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Moumita Choudhury: moumc@nmsu.edu
  • Editor: Sumitrajit Dhar
    Editor: Sumitrajit Dhar×
  • Associate Editor: Lauren Calandruccio
    Associate Editor: Lauren Calandruccio×
Article Information
Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Clinical Focus
Clinical Focus   |   March 01, 2017
The Utilization of Social Media in the Hearing Aid Community
American Journal of Audiology, March 2017, Vol. 26, 1-9. doi:10.1044/2016_AJA-16-0044
History: Received April 10, 2016 , Revised August 23, 2016 , Accepted September 1, 2016
 
American Journal of Audiology, March 2017, Vol. 26, 1-9. doi:10.1044/2016_AJA-16-0044
History: Received April 10, 2016; Revised August 23, 2016; Accepted September 1, 2016

Purpose This study investigated the utilization of social media by the hearing aid (HA) community. The purpose of this survey was to analyze the participation of HA community in the social media websites.

Method A systematic survey of online HA-related social media sources was conducted. Such sources were identified using appropriate search terms. Social media participation was quantified on the basis of posts and “likes.”

Results Five hundred fifty-seven social media sources were identified, including 174 Twitter accounts, 172 YouTube videos, 91 Facebook pages, 20 Facebook groups, 71 blogs, and 29 forums. Twitter and YouTube platforms showed the highest level of activity among social media users. The HA-related community used social media sources for advice and support, information sharing, and service-related information.

Conclusions HA users, other individuals, and organizations interested in HAs leave their digital footprint on a wide variety of social media sources. The community connects, offers support, and shares information on a variety of HA-related issues. The HA community is as active in social media utilization as other groups, such as the cochlear implant community, even though the patterns of their social media use are different because of their unique needs.

The Internet has become a widely accepted alternative social environment in the past decade. Social media—such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and many other Internet-based sources—is serving increasingly important roles in affecting the health care industry. Peer-to-peer health care support aids in compiling and disseminating information, providing opportunities for reflection and discussion of collective experiences, as well as offering fellowship and acting as a support system (McGregor et al., 2014; Saxena et al., 2015). The Pew Internet and the American Life Project reported that in the United States, 61% of adults access the Internet for health and medical information (Fox & Jones, 2009). The same research also reported that 49% of adults have, at least one time, accessed a website that provided information about a specific medical condition. Website development agencies, such as Demi & Cooper Advertising and the DC Interactive Group (Ottenhoff, 2012), reported that 41% of the population agreed that social media affected their choice of specific doctors, hospitals, or medical facilities.
Social media offers highly interactive platforms for individuals and communities to share, discuss, and modify user-generated content. It is clear that patients and their families are increasingly relying on social media to receive health care information and to share personal experiences and opinions on health concerns. The vast amount of health information available on the Internet for consumer health education may have the potential for improving individual health (Eng et al., 1998; Robinson, Patrick, Eng, & Gustafson, 1998). These platforms thus provide an excellent space and opportunity to investigate the behavior of social media users interested in health care.
One of the major health problems that affect children as well as adults is hearing impairment. Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older adults (Collins, 1997). Lin, Niparko, and Ferrucci (2011)  reported that in the United States, 48.1 million people declared some degree of hearing loss, and one in eight people—12 years of age or older—had hearing loss in both ears. An approximated 30.5% of people with hearing loss in the United States use hearing aids (HAs; Blackwell, Lucas, & Clarke, 2012). The HA adoption rate has increased in the United States remarkably over the last few years. The MarkeTrak VIII survey reported that in the United States in 1997, the adoption rate for HAs in people with admitted hearing loss was 20.4% and steadily increased and reached the highest (24.6%) in 2008 (Kochkin, 2009). In 2008, the binaural purchase rate—that is, the acceptance of wearing HAs in both ears instead of one—has also increased to 78.8% for all users and almost 90% for consumers with bilateral hearing impairment.
In recent years, modern electronic technology has gained increased popularity in individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Bowe (2002)  reported that adults in the United States who were deaf or hard of hearing embraced the use of instant messaging and e-mails for communication. In Germany, text messaging was popular with individuals who were deaf or hard of hearing (Power, Power, & Rehling, 2007). Power and Power (2009)  reported that individuals with deafness in Europe who used sign language as a primary mode of communication accessed modern communication technology—such as deaf-related blogs and vlogs, mailing lists, newsgroups, and online services—as well as social networking sites—such as Facebook, Secondlife (an online three-dimensional virtual world where users can connect and socialize), and Camfrog (a group video chat community). In Sweden, individuals with hearing loss showed similar levels of computer and Internet usage compared with their typical hearing, age-matched counterparts (Thorén, Öberg, Wänström, Andersson, & Lunner, 2013). In addition, the younger age individuals (25–64 years) showed higher levels of Internet usage compared with the older age groups. Saxena et al. (2015)  recently investigated participation of the cochlear implant (CI) community in social media websites. They reported that the CI community uses and engages in a wide range of social media sources in seeking support and advocacy, searching for rehabilitative information and research endeavors, and sharing personal experiences.
The Internet enables individuals to communicate freely without revealing their hearing status (Shoham & Heber, 2012) and provides a sense of empowerment, equality, and confidence to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing (Barak & Sadovsky, 2008). In particular, behind a computer screen, people with hearing impairment have access to a virtual world that is truly egalitarian in nature where they will not be limited by their impairment.
Researchers have reported that people who are deaf or hard of hearing actively use the Internet (Barak & Sadovsky, 2008; Hamill & Stein, 2011; Power & Power, 2009; Shoham & Heber, 2012); however, the usage of Internet or social media websites by HA community has not yet been systematically investigated. The HA community is referred to as individuals who are interested in HAs, or who wear HAs, as well as their family members.
The purpose of this survey was to analyze the participation of the HA-user community in social media websites. More specific, the meso-level social processes of HA-user communities in social media websites were studied. In addition, the social media usage of HA users and families were compared with the utilization patterns of CI users. Because CIs and HAs are both devices that aid to compensate for impaired hearing, it can be argued that the CI population most closely resembles an HA-user community, and, therefore, their social media utilization may be compared. The knowledge of the online activity of HA users may prove to be a powerful tool to understand the unmet needs of the HA-user community, provide focused education, and help all stakeholders—clinicians, researchers, and manufacturers—connect to patients and families in a better way, which may act as a catalyst for aural rehabilitation.
Method
A systematic survey of online HA and HA-user-related social media searches was conducted in April 2015. Because there are not many systematic studies of social media use in the population of individuals with hearing impairment, this study was based on the approach adopted by Saxena et al. (2015)  to study social media utilization in the CI community. Institutional review board approval was obtained from the New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. Four social media platforms and two social media websites were chosen for this study.
Social Media Platforms
According to GlobalWebIndex's social summary report (GlobalWebIndex, 2015; Kemp, 2015), the global social media landscape was dominated by Facebook. Facebook remained the top global network for membership and active usage, followed by YouTube. Twitter was also popular on the basis of members, visitors, and active users. For this study, the social media platforms included were Facebook pages, Facebook groups, Twitter, and YouTube. The popular search engine Google was chosen for the current survey. The key word “hearing aid,” was entered in each platform, and the sources returned in the searches were noted. The sources were selected if they had the term “hearing aid” in the title or description of the webpage. The social media sources were included if they had (a) ≥100 “likes” for Facebook pages, (b) ≥20 members for Facebook groups, (c) at least 10 followers for Twitter accounts and a minimum of 20 posted tweets, and (d) a minimum of 100 views for YouTube accounts appearing in the first 20 pages of search results.
Social Media Websites
The two social media websites included were HA-related forums and blogs. To identify HA-related forums and blogs, the key words “hearing aid and forum” and “hearing aid and blog” were used in the search engine. The inclusion criteria for social media websites were composed of (a) a blog, if it displayed the term “blog” in the title, and (b) a forum, with communication related to HAs as described in the title or description of the website.
Because the search engine returned thousands of HA-related sources, the search was further refined by only including websites that appeared in the first 20 pages of the search results. The search results also returned a few sources that had languages other than English as a primary mode of communication and, hence, were excluded from the present study.
Quantification of Activity on Social Media Sources
The items were manually scraped from the social media sources, collated, and analyzed. The activity on social media platforms and websites were quantified by the following indices: number of likes for Facebook groups, number of likes for Facebook pages, number of followers and tweets for Twitter accounts, number of views for YouTube videos, and number of threads and posts for forums (if available). No uniform metric could be identified to measure activities on blogs.
Classification of the Nature of the Posts
Posts from all social media sources were classified according to the nature of the posts derived from previous social media studies on patients with glaucoma and CI communities (McGregor et al., 2014; Saxena et al., 2015). The seven categories identified were (a) personal story, (b) advice and support, (c) information sharing, (d) new technology, (e) topic based, (f) corporate, and (g) service provider. Personal story was defined by content generated by a person or about a person describing personal experiences—for example, an individual sharing a personal story on a blog or YouTube account. Any communication centered on HA wearers' experiences, in which they provided support and advice, was defined as advice and support. A good example would be Facebook group members providing advice on daily use and care of HAs. Communication centered on providing general information and discussion on HAs was categorized under information sharing. Social media posts sharing information on new developments and technology were categorized under new technology. Some social media sources centered their communication on a specific topic or issue, such as Facebook groups launching a campaign to fundraise for HAs for a family member. Such communication was classified under topic based. Communication sponsored or managed by a company or brand was classified under corporate. Information managed by one or a group of service providers, or chains of clinics, was categorized as service provider. Two investigators classified all the posts separately. If there was a difference in opinion in the categories of the posts, it was resolved by group discussions.
Data could be scraped from only publicly available sources. For example, Facebook groups that had closed access (i.e., groups that required permission to join the group), although included in the survey, were not analyzed further for classification of the nature of the posts. Moreover, only forums that publicly displayed their membership numbers were quantified. Forum post discussions that were accessible to members only were not analyzed.
Results
We identified 557 social media sources, of which 174 Twitter accounts, 172 YouTube videos, 91 Facebook pages, and 20 Facebook groups met the inclusion criteria; 71 blogs and 29 forums were also included in the study. Figure 1 provides the summary of HA-related social media sources that met the inclusion criteria. The HA-related social media sources (values shown within solid border boxes) are compared with the CI-related social media sources (values shown within dashed border boxes; data reported in Saxena et al., 2015). The utilization pattern of the HA community across different social media sources is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 1.

Summary of social media sources that met inclusion criteria. Values within a solid border show hearing aid (HA)-related social media sources identified in the present survey. Values within a dashed border show cochlear implant (CI)-related social media sources (data reported in Saxena et al., 2015).

 Summary of social media sources that met inclusion criteria. Values within a solid border show hearing aid (HA)-related social media sources identified in the present survey. Values within a dashed border show cochlear implant (CI)-related social media sources (data reported in Saxena et al., 2015).
Figure 1.

Summary of social media sources that met inclusion criteria. Values within a solid border show hearing aid (HA)-related social media sources identified in the present survey. Values within a dashed border show cochlear implant (CI)-related social media sources (data reported in Saxena et al., 2015).

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Figure 2.

Social media utilization pattern across different platforms in the hearing aid community. PS = personal story; AS = advice and support; IS = information sharing; NT = new technology; TB = topic based; COR = corporate; SP = service provider.

 Social media utilization pattern across different platforms in the hearing aid community. PS = personal story; AS = advice and support; IS = information sharing; NT = new technology; TB = topic based; COR = corporate; SP = service provider.
Figure 2.

Social media utilization pattern across different platforms in the hearing aid community. PS = personal story; AS = advice and support; IS = information sharing; NT = new technology; TB = topic based; COR = corporate; SP = service provider.

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Platforms
Figure 3 shows the activity of the HA community in different platforms. The highest level of social media activity in the HA-user community was evident in Twitter and YouTube platforms. Of the total social media platforms, Twitter (n = 174 accounts) and YouTube videos (n = 172 videos) provided the highest number of sources. Figures 3A and 3B show the utilization patterns of Twitter and YouTube platforms in the HA community.
Figure 3.

Social media utilization patterns by the hearing aid community. (A) Twitter (n = 174), (B) YouTube (n = 172), (C) Facebook groups (n = 20), (D) Facebook pages (n = 91).

 Social media utilization patterns by the hearing aid community. (A) Twitter (n = 174), (B) YouTube (n = 172), (C) Facebook groups (n = 20), (D) Facebook pages (n = 91).
Figure 3.

Social media utilization patterns by the hearing aid community. (A) Twitter (n = 174), (B) YouTube (n = 172), (C) Facebook groups (n = 20), (D) Facebook pages (n = 91).

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Twitter
The 174 HA-related Twitter accounts aggregated more than 113,000 followers and published 254,681 tweets at the time of survey. The top 10% of the Twitter accounts were identified on the basis of highest number of followers. The top Twitter accounts (n = 18 accounts) contributed to 53% of the total number of Twitter followers. The most popular Twitter accounts, on the basis of the number of followers, were Hearing Central and the Hearing Aid Center (both accounts are managed by service providers). Twitter is dominated with accounts by service providers using Twitter as a marketing tool in addition to providing general information about hearing loss and HAs. Service providers accounted for 52% of the total Twitter accounts (see Figure 3A).
The activity of a Twitter account was also measured on the basis of the number of tweets posted. It is interesting to note that the Twitter accounts with the highest number of followers were not necessarily the most active accounts. The three most active Twitter handles posted an aggregate of approximately 71,700 tweets and accounted for almost 30% of the total number of tweets.
YouTube
The 172 HA-related YouTube videos aggregated 18,151,478 views and gathered 65,100 likes at the time of survey. The top 10% of the videos (n = 17 videos) were identified on the basis of the total number of views. The top 10% HA-related YouTube videos accounted for almost 94% of the total number of views. The most popular video on YouTube was of a child wearing his HAs for the first time. This video had almost 14 million views and had the highest number of likes (41,545), accounting for nearly 64% of the total number of likes. This was followed by a video by a stand-up comedian talking about his HAs—gathering almost 1 million views.
The YouTube videos were also reviewed on the basis of their rating system, which was a “thumbs up” (i.e., like) or “thumbs down” (i.e., dislike) rating by the viewers. The 172 identified HA-related YouTube videos gathered 65,100 thumbs ups. The numbers of thumbs downs for YouTube videos were not measured for this survey.
Figure 3B shows the utilization pattern of YouTube videos among the HA community. YouTube videos were mostly used to share advice and support (27%) as well as personal stories (18%).
Facebook
The 20 HA-related Facebook groups identified at the time of review had 9,392 members. The top 10% of the HA-related Facebook groups were identified on the basis of the total number of members. Two Facebook groups that were identified as the top 10% of the HA-related Facebook groups on the basis of membership contributed to 54% of the total number of members. The Facebook group with highest number of members (n = 4,182) at the time of survey was a closed group. This was followed by the group that solicited for custom-made HA fittings for everyone (membership = 930). Of the Facebook groups, 35% (n = 7 groups) were closed-access groups, and 65% (n = 13 groups) were open-access groups.
The 91 HA-related Facebook pages aggregated 95,835 likes. The top 10% of the Facebook pages identified on the basis of the number of likes (n = 9 pages) contributed to 68% of the total number of likes.
Figures 3C and 3D depict the utilization patterns of Facebook groups and pages by the HA community. Facebook groups were evenly distributed among advice and support (30%), information sharing (25%), and topic based (20%). The other categories were attributed to the remaining 25% of posts. In contrast, Facebook pages were mostly dominated by accounts of service providers. Seventy-four percent of Facebook pages were mostly used as a promotional tool for businesses or clinics and also occasionally to provide service-related information.
Forums and Blogs
We identified 29 HA-related forums and 71 HA-related blogs. The HA-related forums aggregated 120,322 posts at the time of review. The largest forum with 51,074 members was The Hearing Aid Forum, which had 81,431 posts at the time of review, contributing to 68% of the total number of posts. The posts in the forum are overseen by moderators and administrators, and users have to register if they want to post or reply to threads. Because of the variable nature of blogs, no uniform metrics could be applied to measure the activity on such an online platform. The HA-related forums mostly offered discussion on advice and support (72%). Most of the blogs were distributed among advice and support (30%) and information sharing (23%).
Discussion
The survey on social media usage by the HA community suggests that HA users and related stakeholders, such as individuals and organizations interested in HAs, leave their digital footprint in a wide variety of social media sources. The community connects, offers support, and shares information on a variety of HA-related issues. A small group of professionals providing HA-related services also use social media as marketing tools for their businesses. The strongest activity by the HA community was seen on Twitter and Facebook. Forums offered a powerful platform for discussion on a variety of HA-related issues.
The HA-related Twitter accounts were mostly dominated by accounts of service providers. Fifty-two percent of Twitter accounts were represented by those of service providers using the platform to introduce and advertise their services to potential clients. A few of the service providers also posted tweets on new hearing devices and accessories, shared informative links on new trends and innovations, and provided general support. YouTube videos are used for a variety of purposes. Twenty-seven percent of YouTube videos were concerned with advice and support, and the rest were almost equally distributed between three categories—personal stories (18%), corporate videos (17%), and information sharing (16%). Popular YouTube posts shared videos of individuals wearing HAs for the first time. Several other users and health care providers posted self-help videos on maintenance and care of HAs at home (see Figure 3B).
HA-related Facebook pages are dominated by HA service providers. Eighty-six percent of the Facebook pages were used by health care providers gaining website traffic from potential clients or attention to their businesses through social media sources. Facebook groups offered forum-like, question–answer platforms for existing and potential HA customers, which reflected an open, supportive, and reassuring community. Thirty percent of the Facebook groups offered advice and support, and 20% were concerned with information sharing (see Figures 3C and 3D). Only two thirds of the Facebook groups had open-access platforms, and data were only investigated from those groups when information was freely available. Contents from closed-access groups were not available and, hence, could not be assessed.
HA-related forums offered strong and informative platforms for existing and potential HA users. The Hearing Aid Forum was the largest forum, with more than 50,000 members and more than 80,000 posts/comments, and it showed the greatest activity among social media users. The HA-related blogs offered divergent topics.
The utilization pattern of the current HA-related social media websites shows that Twitter and Facebook pages are good sources for HA users and their families to search for service providers in their respective regions. Facebook pages also provide lists and details of service providers, clinicians or audiologists, and a range of services offered. YouTube has numerous self-help or do-it-yourself videos on basic care and maintenance of different types and styles of HAs. New and existing HA users may take advantage of useful video posts, such as how to change batteries, retube behind-the-ear HAs, clean and maintain their HAs, and so forth. The Facebook groups and forums offer a strong social media community sharing ideas or offering question-and-answer platforms around common topics or interests. Clinicians and manufacturers may review the Facebook groups and forums to understand the issues that concern HA users and their families. No significant or useful information could be gathered from blogs at the time of survey. The HA community may not find any direct benefit from blogs.
The results of the social media usage in the HA community were compared with the utilization pattern among the CI community (Saxena et al., 2015). HAs amplify sound and deliver it to the ears. CIs convert acoustical signals to electrical impulses and deliver them to the auditory nerve, bypassing the damaged portion of the auditory system. Even though, as biomedical or amplification devices, CIs and HAs are very different, they serve the same purpose—to help people with hearing impairment to hear with greater efficiency. Because both groups deal with hearing impairment and share similar goals, the social media behavior of these two cohorts may be compared. However, the online searches for the HA and CI communities had been run separately, and sources were accessed at different time points. Also, because the Internet is a dynamic space where information is rapidly changing and shifting within a few days or even hours, comparisons of the online behavior between two groups—surveyed at two different times—should be cautiously interpreted. Figure 1 gives a schematic description of the social media sources available on the Internet for the HA and CI communities.
The current survey identified more than 550 HA-related social media sources, a number considerably higher than the 373 social media sources identified by the CI study. As of 2012, approximately 324,000 people worldwide have received a CI (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2015). Blackwell et al. (2012)  reported that an estimated 30.5% of people older than 70 years of age with hearing impairment people wore HAs. Even though a definite number is not known, a reasonable speculation presumes that the number of people who are currently using, or at some point have used, HAs outnumbers CI users.
The CI social media utilization pattern reported by Saxena et al. (2015)  showed that the most popular functional category among CI users was personal stories. Seventy-one percent of Twitter, 62% of YouTube posts, and 92% of blogs were primarily personal stories shared by CI users. The CI-related Facebook group was primarily used for general information and support (68%). In comparison, HA-related social media users did not share similar enthusiasm in sharing personal stories. Only 17% of Twitter, 18% of YouTube, and 10% of blog posts shared by HA users were of a personal nature. As a hearing device, the decision to wear CIs is a lifelong commitment. The major difference that distinguishes HA and CI users as two groups is that HAs could be prescribed for people with a wide range of hearing loss (e.g., mild-to-severe hearing impairment), but CIs are only an option for those with a very high degree of hearing loss (severe-to-profound degree of loss) and who do not get benefit or who receive insufficient benefits from HAs or amplifiers. A CI candidate has to go through rigorous steps such as preimplantation candidacy evaluation, surgery, implant activation, and a postimplantation habilitation program, especially in the cases of children. HA fittings, although requiring multiple follow-up appointments, are a relatively simple procedure and, more important, do not involve surgery. The stakes are also higher for cochlear implantees in cases of device failure because that may involve additional surgery. However, if an HA user is not satisfied with the device, he or she may return, exchange, upgrade, or—in worst cases—leave it unused. In addition, CIs are more expensive than HAs. Although most insurance companies do cover such treatment, the process could be overwhelming and confusing.
Choosing any amplification device must require a great deal of research, but the anxiety and stress around getting a CI device are potentially greater compared with HAs. This finding may partly explain the reason for the popularity of personal success or journey stories for CIs on the Internet (especially YouTube)—a trend reflected by the CI social media users. Receiving a CI is a life-changing event, and a family's excitement for sharing a CI activation video/personal story on the social media is natural. In comparison, it is unlikely to expect such enthusiasm for an activation of an HA for a mild or moderate degree of hearing loss. The present study did not find such popularity of personal stories for HA users. Blog platforms were one of the sources where we expected to see individuals sharing personal experiences; however, we did not find many blog posts that shared the journey of a HA user, or at least the links of such personal blogs were either not returned in the first 20 pages in our search or did not meet inclusion criteria, indicating that those blogs were not very popular. Popularity of blogs in social media also depends on activity of the bloggers, linking blogs with other bloggers and search engine optimization.
The HA-related social media users showed a great deal of activity sharing advice and support in social media. A strong presence was seen among Facebook groups (30%) where HA users offered support, advice, and information to fellow or future HA users. Forums (72%) and blogs (30%) also offered advice and support. Although the current survey did not consider the quality and authenticity of the messages and posts, common themes that emerged in the forum were discussions on HA prices and discontinued HA use because of various reasons. The HA community was also plagued by issues such as unavailability of financial support for HAs, insurance noncoverage, and negative stigma associated with hearing loss and HAs.
Although there is some corporate presence in social media, no HA manufacturer or brand dominated the social scene more than the others. Rather, social media was mostly populated by accounts of service providers, seen in Twitter (52%) and Facebook pages (72%). Unlike within the CI community, we did not find any dominant site or platform that served as a voice for the HA community.
The information obtained in this study concerning the social media footprint of the HA community informs us of multiple trends that exist within the community: (a) the type of information the community is interested in, (b) the potential sources that the community may access for obtaining information, and (c) a preliminary snapshot of the ever-growing and ever-changing HA community on the Internet. Furthermore, these trends can provide clinicians and professionals with ways in which they can expand and increase clientele, improve client retention, and provide information that their clients receive concerning their HAs. The results of this study show that the participation of the HA community in social media is substantial. Clinicians and professionals may choose to participate in social media to better provide for their clients and offer information as to how certain resources may be more accessible (e.g., scientific research on Facebook). Many HA users use social media for obtaining information about their devices as well as to be a part of a supportive community, whether of fellow HA users, professionals, or businesses.
This study supports general findings from multiple studies (Barak & Sadovsky, 2008; Blom, Carpenter, Bowe, & Lange, 2014; Bowe, 2002; Saxena et al., 2015; West, 2013) that showed the rising trend of social media as a source of information for health-related communities. In addition, the study shows the adaptability of communication throughout social media—although some information may be more acceptable in some communities, it may not be the most effective in other areas (e.g., personal stories on Facebook). The presence of social media continues to grow, and it is important for clients and professionals to be aware of the communities who utilize it as well as the communication that exists on different platforms and sites.
Most common search engines provide personalized search results on the basis of IP address (location), search history, and preferences. This inherent flaw of social media searches could provide a skewed result, and it is one of the major but unavoidable limitations of the study. Also, the data were manually scraped (i.e., manually copying the information or data from the website) instead of using online web scraping tools (i.e., using computer software techniques to extract information from websites); therefore, the data may be marred by flaws of subjective evaluations. Although the consistency with which investigators classified the categories of the posts was considered, the likelihood of bias influencing reliability, sensitivity, fairness of the subjective coding, and functional classification of categories cannot be entirely eliminated. The present study investigated the use of social media by the HA community members who are social media users only. It was not possible to know how many HA users do not use social media. Regardless, this first survey made an important breakthrough in understanding the behavior of social media users who are interested in HAs. This study provided the necessary foundation for future work involving more in-depth quantitative investigations along with qualitative analyses determining the extent and how HA users and their families use and interact in social media.
Social networking is a great way to release information to a large amount of people in a short period of time. In this way, clinicians and professionals can provide valid scientific information to their clients promptly, and they can make sure that their clients are receiving the latest information related to their hearing devices. This also implies that brands and companies, as well as support groups, can reach a broad range of people within a community on multiple platforms. This study exclusively surveyed Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, and forums, but clearly there were also other platforms that were not included, implying that the communities examined are actually much broader than the scope of this study. This finding also suggests that there are numerous ways in which communities may be accessed, allowing for the flexibility of the professional as well as for the versatility in the ways in which information may be presented. In addition, professionals can learn more about the communal and personal issues that may arise within a specific community through the pages and postings within multiple platforms.
Conclusion
From this study, it is evident that HA users and their families extensively use social media for various purposes, such as gathering information and seeking advice and support; however, how social media information affects the client–provider interaction remains to be seen. The present study did not attempt to review the quality of the posts shared by social media users, and it did not judge the accuracy of information and insights of the sources. An important issue persists if the clinicians have any obligations to moderate content and the information shared across social media sources to better inform consumers about hearing health-related issues as well as to remove any misleading information.
Acknowledgment
Part of this survey was presented at the 2015 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention, November 12–14, in Denver, Colorado.
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Figure 1.

Summary of social media sources that met inclusion criteria. Values within a solid border show hearing aid (HA)-related social media sources identified in the present survey. Values within a dashed border show cochlear implant (CI)-related social media sources (data reported in Saxena et al., 2015).

 Summary of social media sources that met inclusion criteria. Values within a solid border show hearing aid (HA)-related social media sources identified in the present survey. Values within a dashed border show cochlear implant (CI)-related social media sources (data reported in Saxena et al., 2015).
Figure 1.

Summary of social media sources that met inclusion criteria. Values within a solid border show hearing aid (HA)-related social media sources identified in the present survey. Values within a dashed border show cochlear implant (CI)-related social media sources (data reported in Saxena et al., 2015).

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Figure 2.

Social media utilization pattern across different platforms in the hearing aid community. PS = personal story; AS = advice and support; IS = information sharing; NT = new technology; TB = topic based; COR = corporate; SP = service provider.

 Social media utilization pattern across different platforms in the hearing aid community. PS = personal story; AS = advice and support; IS = information sharing; NT = new technology; TB = topic based; COR = corporate; SP = service provider.
Figure 2.

Social media utilization pattern across different platforms in the hearing aid community. PS = personal story; AS = advice and support; IS = information sharing; NT = new technology; TB = topic based; COR = corporate; SP = service provider.

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Figure 3.

Social media utilization patterns by the hearing aid community. (A) Twitter (n = 174), (B) YouTube (n = 172), (C) Facebook groups (n = 20), (D) Facebook pages (n = 91).

 Social media utilization patterns by the hearing aid community. (A) Twitter (n = 174), (B) YouTube (n = 172), (C) Facebook groups (n = 20), (D) Facebook pages (n = 91).
Figure 3.

Social media utilization patterns by the hearing aid community. (A) Twitter (n = 174), (B) YouTube (n = 172), (C) Facebook groups (n = 20), (D) Facebook pages (n = 91).

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