Is it safe to kiss your baby’s ears?

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Do you like to kiss baby ears? Unfortunately, it’s possible for a kiss to the ear to cause hearing damage. It’s not just a risk to babies – it could happen to anyone – even an adult being kissed by a child. Babies have small ears and ear canals which makes them especially vulnerable to damage from kissing.

My biggest concern as far as warning the public and getting this out is regarding newborns and infants. Mothers and fathers, and even sisters and brothers and grandparents love to smooch up that little baby—give him a whole kissing frenzy. – Dr. Levi Reiter

Ear-kiss syndrome

Dr. Levi Reiter, an audiologist and professor at Hofstra University in New York, discovered this kissing-induced hearing damage. It’s called Reiter’s ear-kiss syndrome (REKS), or sometimes known as the “Kiss of Death.” A kiss that covers the ear canal can create negative pressure to the ear drum. Adults with the syndrome recall having pain when the kiss occurred. Some say the damaged ear sounds muffled and others have tinnitus (ringing in the ear) from it.

Currently, there’s only 30 cases worldwide that have been identified as REKS. But, Dr. Reiter’s discovery was only in the past decade and he expects to find more especially in children.

Sound safety for kissing baby ears

  • Don’t kiss baby ears and urge others to do the same.
  • Don’t let others kiss you covering the ear canal.
  • If your child wants to kiss anyone else, teach them to kiss cheeks, not ears.
  • If you have an infant, be aware of where others are kissing him/her.

What to do if you get a kiss to the ear that hurts

If you have pain from a kiss to the ear, see a doctor. You may be referred to an audiologist for further testing.

If you (or someone you know) has hearing damage that you suspect is from an ear kiss, Dr. Reiter may want to hear from you. You can contact him at