The “Kiss of Deaf”!

Where’s the one place you should never kiss a baby — or anyone else? The ear, according to a professor of audiology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

An innocent kiss right on the ear opening creates strong suction that tugs on the delicate eardrum, resulting in a recently recognized condition known as “cochlear ear-kiss injury.” Such a kiss can lead not only to permanent hearing loss, but a host of other troubling ear symptoms including ringing, sensitivity to sound, distortion and aural fullness.

Hofstra University’s Dr. Levi Reiter has been studying the phenomenon ever since a woman came to him five years ago with a strange story about going deaf in one ear immediately after her five-year-old kissed her there. “I thought this lady was a unique case,” says Reiter. After a bit of research, though, he discovered another case of ear-kiss injury reported in the 1950s.

Once the so-called “kiss of deaf” was written up in Newsday, however, Reiter started hearing from people worldwide. He has now identified more than 30 ear-kiss victims (and hopes to hear from more), and is preparing to submit his most recent findings to the International Journal of Audiology and the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.

Ear-kiss patients exhibit a characteristic pattern of hearing loss, Reiter said, with hearing most diminished in the frequency range of unvoiced consonants, such as “ch” and “sh.”

“There are a lot of cases of unknown unilateral hearing loss in kids, and I am sure that a good portion are from a peck on the ear,” he says.

Babies and small children are particularly vulnerable to hearing damage via kiss, simply because their ear canals are smaller. A baby will cry after such a painful kiss, he says, but “kids cry for a lot of reasons.” Unfortunately, hearing loss usually isn’t identified until years later, during a school screening.

Unilateral hearing loss can be acquired from a blow to the ear, impulse noise (like an exploding firecracker) on one side of the head, or a Q-tip pushed too far.

An ear-kiss is another cause, formerly undiscovered, said Paul Farrell, associate director for audiology practices at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “It is a fascinating phenomenon,” he said. “I would consider it an emerging topic in the field.”

Reiter believes 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.

Reiter is full of horror stories of ear-kiss injuries resulting from normal everyday activities: a hairdresser sending a client off with a nice hairdo and a smack on the ear; a relative’s air-kiss going astray after a quick turn of the head; a mother seeing her little girl off to school with a loving smooch.

Still, the prevalence of the injury is unknown.

“People are going to doctors who are pooh-poohing this,” says Reiter. “One reason these people wrote to me in the first place was that they were getting nowhere. The doctors were making fun of them. They felt humiliated.”

Joe Fields, an 82-year-old jazz producer from Long Island, received a kiss on the ear from his adult granddaughter a few years ago that left him with a host of hearing problems.

“It felt like if you got hit by a ball on the ear,” he says. “It’s like hearing through a screen of some sort. In the kissy ear, speech is totally muffled.”

Fields, a patient of Reiter’s, now wears hearing aids, but still experiences intermittent sensations of aural fullness as well as a “deep-seated itch.” “At times, it feels terrible,” he says. Reiter speculates that an injection of steroids through the eardrum, which is used in cases of sudden idiopathic deafness, could help if administered within days of an ear kiss.

But there is currently no treatment and symptoms don’t tend to resolve. As a result, Reiter — and patients like Joe Fields — preach prevention.

“My granddaughter is a kindergarten teacher and I tell her never kiss any of your little tykes on the ear,” he says. For any questions or more information contact Hidden Hearing.

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Gaybo defends Past Kenny in “Tweet” row!

Gay Byrne and Dr Nina Byrnes and the Launch of Hearing Action Week.

Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne has defended his one-time rival Pat Kenny over the ‘Tweetgate’ controversy. He said Mr Kenny was not to blame for reading out a bogus tweet on the ‘Frontline’ presidential election debate, claiming he could easily have made the same mistake. “If I had been Pat, I would have assumed that the piece of paper I had been handed had been checked by somebody. I wouldn’t blame Pat for it, nor does anybody else.”

The broadcaster also revealed that he would soon appear on our TV screens wearing a hearing aid. The 78-year-old yesterday said his hearing had deteriorated to such an extent that he was already using a hearing aid — and he plans to use it for all his future TV and radio appearances.

“It won’t affect me on TV or radio in any way,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, there is no shame in wearing a hearing aid. To me it’s the same as wearing glasses if your sight is bad.” The long-serving RTE star put the blame for some of his hearing difficulties on his broadcasting career.

“For 30 years I sat in a radio studio for five mornings a week with music blasting on so it must have had some effect,” he said. “Funny thing was, to hear what was going on, I used to wear one headphone, not two, and years later the ear on which I didn’t listen to music is my good one.”The former ‘Late Late Show’ host revealed he was undergoing hearing tests and encouraged others to do so as part of Hearing Action Week. Mr Byrne is helping to promote the awareness campaign around hearing loss — which he launched yesterday — run by Hidden Hearing in association with the Irish Deaf Society.

Launched as part of Hearing Action Week, two mobile hearing screening clinics from Dublin and Belfast will tour the country throughout the year, visiting more than 400 destinations nationwide and providing over 10,000 free screenings.

More information can be found on

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Gay Byrne on hand to help launch Hearing Action Week

TV and radio presenter Gay Byrne and Hidden Hearing's Medical Advisor Dr. Nina Byrnes with Stephen Leddy, Managing Director Hidden Hearing launched Hearing Action Week

Hearing Action Week 2012 launched today with an action-packed series of events and initiatives. This year the campaign is focused on encouraging people to take action on their hearing loss. The week kicks off with a media launch with guest of honour, legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne. Gay has entertained us for many decades on radio and TV and is a fitting ambassador for the Hearing Action Week campaign.

Two state-of-the-art mobile hearing clinics will kick off a nationwide tour from Dublin and Belfast, visiting many destinations and providing free hearing screenings. In the picture above  TV and radio presenter Gay Byrne and Hidden Hearing’s Medical Advisor Dr. Nina Byrnes with Stephen Leddy, Managing Director Hidden Hearing launched Hearing Action Week – a national awareness campaign encouraging people to take action on their hearing loss conducted by Hidden Hearing in association with the Irish Deaf Society. Gay Byrne, who recently took action on his own hearing loss, is encouraging people to ‘Change the Record’ from awareness to action, highlighting that some people delay addressing the issue for up to 15 years. For further information check
Hidden Hearing will also be launching two new hearing healthcare clinics in Sligo and Artane as part of Hearing Action Week.

Hear is a story!

It’s the story many need to hear, but can’t: A new report finds many people over the age of 50 have significant hearing loss, but few do anything about it. It begins with having to turn up the volume on the television or missing words in conversation. On average, people with hearing loss wait about seven years before getting help.

A new Johns Hopkins University report reveals that of the people with significant hearing problems, only about 14 percent use hearing aids, even though most could benefit from them. One reason: people think it makes them look old.

Dolores Madden from Hidden Hearing says the pros outweigh the cons. “The social isolation you may feel. The difficulty at work. The difficulty in crowds. Weigh that against the concerns you have about cosmetics,” said Madden.

Other studies show that not treating hearing loss in the elderly is associated with poor thinking, depression and dementia.

With Hidden Hearing we give clients a money-back guarantee if the hearing aids don’t work for them. So it’s worth a try, says Madden. “Get the information. Hearing evaluations are FREE,” said Madden.

Study authors also point out there’s a misconception that hearing aids work instantaneously. Doctors say it can take months for the brain to adjust to sounds amplified by a hearing aid. So take your time and adjust slowly in the long run it will be well with it. For more information contact Hidden Hearing.

Hearing loss may raise older adults’ risk of falling

THE QUESTION Foot problems, muscle weakness and slower reflexes can affect balance and cause a fall. So can some medications, vision problems, blood pressure issues and more. Should hearing loss be added to the list?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 2,017 people, 40 to 69 years old, who were considered representative of the U.S. population. Standardized testing showed that about 14 percent of them had at least mild hearing loss, and about 5 percent reported having fallen in the past year. Participants also were tested on how well they kept their balance. People with a 25-decibel hearing loss, considered mild, were three times as likely to have fallen as were those with no hearing loss, even after taking into account balance issues. As hearing loss increased, so did the likelihood of taking a tumble.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People of middle age and older. Many people experience gradual loss of hearing as they age, a change often attributed to heredity or long-term exposure to loud noises. Incidents of falling also increase with age but are almost always attributed to something other than merely getting older.

Waiting list at 13,500 for Hearing Test

Coping with your child's hearing loss

The number of children and adults waiting for a hearing test has soared to over 13,500, new figures reveal.

There are 6,412 children and 7,181 adults queueing for the test with the largest numbers waiting in the west of the country.

Another 1,142 are waiting for a hearing aid, including 125 children, Health Minister James Reilly admitted.

He pointed out that the Health Service Executive published the highly critical report of its National Audiology Review Group (NARG) in April last year.

This revealed that high numbers of people were facing long delays for the service, which had a shortage of specialist staff.

A number of its recommendations to reduce waiting times are now being progressed, including the appointment of a National Clinical Lead which has recently been approved.

There are also plans to combine community and hospital services to make better resources of the existing audiology staff in both areas.

More hearing specialists whose training is sponsored by the HSE should be ready to join the workforce in September next year.

The minister, who was replying to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connnor, also said a national procurement process for hearing aids, hearing aid fitting systems and audiological assessment equipment was due to be completed this month.

If you need more information about hearing tests or would like a FREE hearing test contact Hidden Hearing.

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Helping the one you love come to terms with hearing loss

People don’t realize what they are missing in conversations and how many sounds they no longer hear.

Acknowledging hearing loss begins with complex reactions, but the most common one is denial. Although there are many reasons why people have denial, the bottom line is: taking that first step to get a hearing test may confirm their worst fear — that they do have a hearing loss.

There are factors that make denial logical for many people. Hearing loss often progresses slowly. People don’t realize what they are missing in conversations and how many sounds they no longer hear. It is a known fact that it takes about seven years for someone to acknowledge hearing loss. They may hear well in some situations — good acoustics, quiet atmosphere without background noise, one-on-one conversations with a familiar person. Denial can be a tricky thing when that person uses it as a defense mechanism: everyone else has the problem — the world “mumbles!” But most of the time denial goes back to our society’s historical “taboo” of aging.

To help your loved one move beyond denial — don’t push too hard. Find out where they are having the most trouble hearing. If the TV volume becomes too loud, look into assistive listening devices for TVs. Find a phone or handset with stronger volume control if they are missing phone calls. If they can’t hear the door bell, alarm clock or smoke alarm, look into visual/vibrating alerting systems. Use safety as the motivator to get them to consider taking that hearing test. These are the first steps to get people to be aware of their hearing loss and of what they can do about it.Iit is important to know the other reasons for making them take a hearing test. Long-term, unchecked hearing loss can cause auditory deprivation (a condition that results in the brain “forgetting” how to hear and understand speech). Ninety-five percent of people with hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids. Nine out of 10 hearing-aid users report improvements in quality of life. If you have any questions about hearing loss or hearing aids contact Hidden Hearing.