Objective: Evaluate the type, content and quality of information available via the internet for patients with common otological conditions.
Methods: The Google search engine was used to generate responses for the following search terms: glue ear, otitis media, otosclerosis, Meniere's disease, cholesteatoma and ear perforation. The first 10 websites for each search term were selected for analysis. Websites were evaluated with the validated DISCERN instrument, the LIDA tool, the Flesch Readability Formula, the SMOG (Simple Measure Of Gobbledygook) readability score and against the JAMA criteria. Comparisons were made with a similar study assessing quality of information in non-otological conditions.
Results: Mean SMOG score was 12.19 years of education (range 6.2–22.8). The HON symbol appeared on 15 of 49 websites (30.61%). Pearson's r was used to identify interactions between variables and demonstrated a significant correlation between LIDA score and Google ranking (R2 = −0.1195, p = 0.002); between university/hospital affiliation and JAMA score (R2 = −1.7889, p = 0.0182) and commercial affiliation and JAMA score (R2 = 1.0561; p = 0.01). Multivariate linear regression analysis showed LIDA to be the strongest predictor of Google ranking (Page rank decreasing by 0.10572 per LIDA score; p = 0.01).
Conclusion: As websites with better Google ranking were only weakly associated with higher quality rankings patients would benefit from being directed to reliable websites by clinicians. There is currently a gap in the available resources repository of otological information aimed at patients.