Determining Emotional Tone and Verbal Behavior in Patients With Tinnitus and Hyperacusis: An Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study

Am J Audiol. 2019 Sep 13;28(3):660-672. doi: 10.1044/2019_AJA-18-0136. Epub 2019 Aug 20.


Purpose The purpose of this study was to evaluate the emotional tone and verbal behavior of social media users who self-identified as having tinnitus and/or hyperacusis that caused self-described negative consequences on daily life or health. Research Design and Method An explanatory mixed-methods design was utilized. Two hundred "initial" and 200 "reply" Facebook posts were collected from members of a tinnitus group and a hyperacusis group. Data were analyzed via the LIWC 2015 software program and compared to typical bloggers. As this was an explanatory mixed-methods study, we used qualitative thematic analyses to explain, interpret, and illustrate the quantitative results. Results Overall, quantitative results indicated lower overall emotional tone for all categories (tinnitus and hyperacusis, initial and reply), which was mostly influenced by higher negative emotion. Higher levels of authenticity or truth were found in the hyperacusis sample but not in the tinnitus sample. Lower levels of clout (social standing) were indicated in all groups, and a lower level of analytical thinking style (concepts and complex categories rather than narratives) was found in the hyperacusis sample. Additional analysis of the language indicated higher levels of sadness and anxiety in all groups and lower levels of anger, particularly for initial replies. These data support prior findings indicating higher levels of anxiety and depression in this patient population based on the actual words in blog posts and not from self-report questionnaires. Qualitative results identified 3 major themes from both the tinnitus and hyperacusis texts: suffering, negative emotional tone, and coping strategies. Conclusions Results from this study suggest support for the predominant clinical view that patients with tinnitus and hyperacusis have higher levels of anxiety and depression than the general population. The extent of the suffering described and patterns of coping strategies suggest clinical practice patterns and the need for research in implementing improved practice plans.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperacusis*
  • Male
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Online Social Networking*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Media*
  • Tinnitus*
  • Verbal Behavior*