You may plant a big kiss on your baby's ear and think nothing of it, but you could be giving the "kiss of deaf."
"It's just a really loud kiss," said Jane Bickerstaff, an educational audiologist with the Ingham Intermediate School District. "And the suction noise in the ear can actually damage the hearing. It can happen."
And it can happen to anyone - a study from a professor of audiology at Hofstra University in New York identified more than 30 ear-kiss victims. Experts say babies are especially vulnerable to hearing damage by kiss because their ear canals are smaller. The advice from audiologists is simple.
"Kiss them other places," said Bickerstaff. "Kiss them on their chubby cheeks, their chubby feet, things like that instead."
A kiss on the ear isn't the only way to accidentally damage a baby's hearing. Audiologists say if babies are allowed to drink milk from bottles while lying down, it can cause middle ear problems and potentially hearing loss.
"It's just best health and common sense to feed a baby when the head can be lifted," said Deborah Edwards, an educational audiologist. "And the milk can drain down the back of the throat, instead of ending up sitting in the middle ear space and causing infection."
Another common mistake when it comes to keeping kids' ears healthy -- putting Q-tips, or anything smaller than the size of the ear canal, into the ear. Audiologists suggest using a warm, sudsy washcloth to clean the ears instead.
"Then put cotton in their ears and lay them on their side to let the water drip onto the cotton," Edwards said. "But you don't every want to ever put anything into the ear that could cause damage either by pushing wax further in or actually damaging the ear drum."
Damaging the ear drum can cause permanent hearing damage, which in turn affects a child's focus, behavior, and education. That's why audiologists says it's important to take your child's hearing health seriously.
"You take your kid to the dentist, you take your baby to check-ups," said educational audiologist Helga Lewis. "You get your kids' eyes tested, so it's an excellent idea to have an audiologist check your child's hearing."
The audiologists also said hearing loss is not an all or nothing issue. In some cases, kids can respond to some sounds, just not all of them. If your child doesn't respond immediately to sounds around the house, like a door slamming or a dog barking, if they have a hard time paying attention and focusing, or if there's a speech and language delay - those could all potentially be signs of some type of hearing loss.
Activities like mowing the lawn and some recreational sports can also be damaging to hearing, but listening to music too loudly is definitely one of the biggest problems for older kids.
Studies show that high school and college students listen to their MP3 players two hours each day, with 14 percent of those listening at 80 to 100 percent of the volume level through their headphones or ear buds. At that point, they're incurring damage to their ears, so it's important to make sure that volume is below the 80 percent mark.