“Kiss of Deaf”: Why You Shouldn’t Kiss Your Baby’s Ears

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | July 22nd, 2016

Duane L. Smelser

“Kiss of Deaf”: Why You Shouldn’t Kiss Your Baby’s Ears

It is in our nature as parents to love our newborn children. They are the apple of our eye and they are perfect in every way. But did you know that too much love can sometimes lead to hearing loss? A growing number of people have experienced Reiter’s Ear Kiss Syndrome (REKS), which is hearing damage caused by kissing the ear. The condition is named after Hofstra University’s Dr. Levi Reiter, who has been analyzing the trend for five years. Learn more about how a simple kiss could harm your baby’s hearing. 


How Hearing Loss May Occur

A vigorous kiss on the ear can create a powerful suction that pulls on the eardrum. This can create a perforation on the eardrum, which damages the 3 bones in the ear (the malleus, incus and stapes bones). Stapedial ligament damage in particular harms the outer hair cells permanently, leading to ringing, a sensitivity to sound and a muffled hearing experience.


Nature of hearing loss

Sufferers of this condition have a very particular type of hearing loss, showing difficulty hearing unvoiced consonant sounds such as “ch” and “sh”. Anecdotal evidence describes hearing as ‘muffled’, as if they are listening to the world behind a screen of glass.

The bad news is that in such an emerging field, there is currently no agreed cure for REKS. Current sufferers have taken to wearing hearing aids to restored hearing of unvoiced consonant sounds, but other symptoms remain. One of Reiter’s own patients, Joe Fields, is a known sufferer. His hearing aids are helping but he still experiences “intermittent sensations of aural fullness as well as a “deep-seated itch.”


Why babies and kids are vulnerable

Babies and very young children are more susceptible to this type of hearing loss because of their smaller ear canals. These delicate structures are more easily damaged. A baby echo receives this damage will merely cry, and their parents will often have no idea as to why they are crying. It is only much later in the child’s life that the damaged is identified. This means the condition might be untraceable to the kiss that caused it.

Also, kids are more likely than adults to be kissed all over the face and head by enamored grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, not least their own parents. They are thus more likely to be kissed on their ears than adults are.


Advice for parents

Dr. Reiter has very simple advice for parents about how to avoid this type of hearing loss – don’t kiss your child on the ear, and urge anyone in regular contact with your child to do the same:

“The ear canal of an infant is very small, so the pressure, that negative pressure that is applied to the ear canal is going to have a much greater impact than on an adult.” – Dr. Reiter

Dr. Reiter has so far found 30 people worldwide who have come forward with symptoms and causes consistent with REKS. He expects to find many more as the young children currently suffering in silence are eventually diagnosed.

If you have had any hearing loss or other ear problems resulting from a kiss on your ear, Dr. Reiter would love to hear from you for his ongoing research into this phenomenon. His email address is ears@drreiter.net


If you are concerned about hearing loss in your child, contact us at Hearing Health in Portland.


Hearing Health
4921 SW 76th Ave
Portland, OR 97225




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