Kissing is for Cheeks – Not Ears: The Link Between Ear-Kisses and Hearing Loss

Kissing is for Cheeks – Not Ears: The Link Between Ear-Kisses and Hearing Loss


Imagine attending loud rock concerts, growing older, getting hit with a baseball and getting a kiss. Which of these activities do you think may lead to hearing loss? You might be surprised to learn that the answer is: all of them. Each of these activities can cause permanent hearing loss. Yes, even an innocent kiss (if planted on the ear) can cause irreversible and incurable hearing loss – especially in infants and toddlers. Dr. Levi Reiter, from Hofstra University, is the leading researcher on the ear-kiss phenomenon. We’ve outlined some of his most recent research and further information on the surprising “ear-kiss of deaf”.


Can This Really Be True?

As unbelievable as the “ear-kiss of deaf” phenomena sounds, it is absolutely real – and may be more common than the current research suggests. Currently called “Reiter’s Ear-Kiss Syndrome” or REKS, a kiss on the ear creates a forcible suction, which can damage the delicate eardrum and cause irreversible damage. The damage caused by an ill-placed kiss can be permanent (partial or complete) hearing loss, distortion, ringing or buzzing, sensitivity to sound, and a feeling of fullness in the ears.


How Does This Happen?

Dr. Reiter first started researching the issue when a woman came to him about 9 years ago with hearing issues after her 4-year-old child had excitedly kissed her on the ear. At first, he believed her incidence was unique, however, with more research he realized there were multiple cases of ear-kiss victims from all over the world. Reiter has heard various stories of ear-kiss injuries from adult grandchildren kissing their elderly grandparents, to friends greeting one another in a café, to mothers lovingly sending their children off to school. He predicts that REKS is even more common in infants, as their eardrums are much smaller and more delicate, therefore, more susceptible to damage. Because these infants cannot tell their parents, “wow, now I can’t hear in one ear after that kiss”, many of these cases go undiagnosed until screenings at school.


Is There a Cure?

If administered within days of an ear-kiss, Dr. Reiter speculates that an injection of steroids in the eardrum may be a solution, however, this therapy is not currently a proven cure for REKS victims. Presently, prevention is the best way to avoid this type of hearing loss. Be careful when kissing friends, family members, and your spouse goodbye, as this is often when kisses aimed at cheeks go awry and end up on ear canals. It is especially important not to kiss children, babies and infants on the ears, as their eardrums are smaller and more prone to damage. Remind older siblings and cousins to steer clear of babies’ ears when loving them, as children tend to be naturally less delicate with little ones.

It is also important to share this information with friends and family, as it tends to be equally shocking to all who discover that an innocent kiss can cause such hefty hearing issues!


What Should I do?

If you or a loved one have been kissed on the ear and are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is suggested you schedule a consultation and hearing exam. Regardless of the cause of hearing loss, early identification and treatment are your best chance to preserve your precious hearing and get assistance with any that may be lost. Now, give your loved ones a big kiss (on the cheek!) and call Greentree Hearing and Audiology to schedule your hearing exam and consultation with our experienced team.

For more information on REKS, visit NBC News.


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