Posted by & filed under Hearing loss, Pediatric Audiology, Preventative care

An Innocent Kiss on the Ear? Here’s Why Not to Do This!

Babies! So adorably sweet, cuddly, and soft…….who is not compelled to kiss and cuddle them? By all means, do so….but please, not on the ears!

Those little ears may be tender and soft, but did you know that a kiss on the ear opening cannot only cause permanent hearing loss, but also a host of other problems including over-sensitivity to sound, distortion, ringing, and fullness in the ear?


"Kiss of Deaf"

This phenomenon, called “cochlear ear-kiss injury”, “Reiter’s Ear Kiss Syndrome”, and “Kiss of Deaf”, has recently emerged, and is being studied by Dr. Levi Reiter of Hofstra University, following an account of a mother and child. Here is the incident that brought about the study.

  • A mother and her 4-year-old daughter were sitting on the floor, watching TV. The child impulsively hugged her mother and vigorously kissed her, directly on the opening to her left ear canal. This created considerable suction which applied negative pressure to the ear drum. The mother reported feeling as though the air had been sucked out of her head. What followed was total hearing loss in that ear, and a very intense, screeching tinnitus, along with facial tics and pain.
  • Fortunately, most of her hearing returned a few hours later, but she was left with a permanent 35 dB hearing loss in the lower frequencies. The screeching tinnitus subsided into a permanent soft rushing sound, but she sustained hyper-sensitivity to sound, distorted hearing, and facial twitching. It was discovered that she had lost her auditory reflex, caused by a tiny muscle tear. It is believed that the intense suction on the eardrum pulls the chain of three tiny bones in the ear. The third bone, the stirrup-shaped stapes, then tugs on the stapedial annular ligament, causing turbulence in the fluid of the cochlea, or inner ear.

After beginning his study, Dr. Reiter began to receive reports from people all over the county full of horror stories of injuries resulting from everyday activities involving innocent kisses on the ear. Once this phenomenon was reported in Newsday, he started hearing from people worldwide with similar experiences, and is preparing to submit his most recent findings to the International Journal of Audiology and the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.

Babies and small children are particularly vulnerable to hearing loss and damage due to ear kisses

Their ear canals are smaller, so the intense suction and negative pressure caused by a direct ear kiss is going to have a much greater impact on a baby or child, than on an adult. A baby will undoubtedly cry after such a painful kiss, but since babies cry for so many reasons and cannot communicate why, the cause of pain and resulting hearing loss can go unidentified for years, perhaps until a first school screening.

While there are many other causes of sudden unilateral hearing loss, such as a blow to the ear, impulse noise (such as an exploding firecracker), and Q-tip use, the prevalence of hearing loss from ear kisses is not yet known, but cases continue to flood in.

The bottom line is, never kiss anyone, child or adult, directly on the ear! Mothers and fathers, grandparents, and siblings just love to kiss babies and small children, and must be warned of this danger. Especially concerning are little children who try to kiss a baby sibling. They are not discerning about where they plant their kisses and how forcefully they do it.

Share this knowledge! Prevention and education are the best ways to avoid “The Kiss of Deaf”!


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