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Can a Kiss Be Medically Dangerous?

By Kevin Hellyer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Hearing loss can occur for a number of different reasons. A blow to the head, a jarringly loud noise close to your ear, or maybe a cotton swab pushed in too far.

Audiologists have also been investigating a more surprising cause, coined “the kiss of deaf” by Newsday after reports of hearing loss resulting from an innocent kiss too close to the ear.

How is that possible? Specialists believe that intense suction from an overzealous kiss can cause damage to the eardrum, or to the three tiny bones in the middle ear. Babies are particularly susceptible, since their ear canals are very narrow. Hearing loss can be permanent or temporary, and symptoms can show up, or worsen, years later.

Take care when you kiss:

  • Suction on the eardrum can cause the stapes bone to tug on the tissue that connects it to the oval window of the inner ear, thus causing turbulence in the fluid of the cochlea (inner ear), which can lead to hearing loss.

  • An injection of steroids through the eardrum, a treatment that is used in instances of sudden sensorineural hearing loss, could bring relief if administered within days of an ear kiss that has caused damage.

  • “It is a fascinating phenomenon,” says Paul Farrell, associate director for audiology practices at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “I would consider it an emerging topic in the field.”

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