Skip to content

Children's Health

Font Size

Does Your Child Have Hearing Loss?

WebMD Feature

July 24, 2000 -- Some 12,000 American children are born each year with impaired hearing. If you're concerned that your child may be one of them, you'll want to pay attention to the warning signs. Here are some of the most common, according to the National Campaign for Hearing Health.

By the time your baby is 3 months old, she should be able to turn her head and smile when you are speaking to her. Loud noises should be enough to startle or wake her. Not responding to sounds is one of the major indicators of hearing impairment at any age.

Recommended Related to Children

Whooping Cough: What You Need to Know

What do we all need to know about whooping cough (pertussis)? WebMD asked epidemiologist Tom Clark, MD, MPH, of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. What is whooping cough? Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that's highly contagious, and it's also vaccine preventable. Especially in young kids and unvaccinated people, it causes a severe cough, which is the reason for the name, "whooping cough." What kind of infection causes whooping cough? It's...

Read the Whooping Cough: What You Need to Know article > >

By 6 months old, your baby should enjoy playing with rattles and other noisy toys. She is likely to be repeating basic speech patterns such as "ooh," "aah," or "ba-ba." She should also be able to turn her head to respond to a new sound and recognize differences in vocal tones, especially a stern "No."

Between 6 and 10 months, most children will respond to their name and to other common sounds, like a ringing telephone. They will babble frequently, even when alone, and will start to use their first words. Slow language development, and especially the lack of babbling, are key indicators of hearing problems in the first few years of life. Some impaired children will make a high-pitched squealing sound instead.

At 15 to 18 months, your child will probably be following simple instructions and can form very basic sentences. He may know as many as 20 words and will use them often. By the age of 2, he will enjoy being read to and should understand basic, yes-or-no questions and simple phrases like "in the cup," or "on the table." If your child does not engage in sound-focused behaviors like these, he may have hearing problems.

Remember that all kids develop at their own pace, and these schedules are just guidelines. However, children with hearing impairments quickly learn to depend on their other senses, and their parents are often unaware that their babies are reacting primarily to visual cues, like smiles, rather than the words that accompany the expression. If you have any reason to suspect that your child is not hearing properly, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician or an audiologist. Hearing tests are neither complicated nor expensive, and it is important to diagnose and correct these problems as soon as possible so that the hearing-impaired child can develop normally.

Will Wade, a San Francisco-based writer, has a 5-year-old daughter and was the co-founder of a monthly parenting magazine. His work has appeared in POV magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, and Salon.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration