In your baby’s first year, you’ll watch them reach some amazing milestones, from smiling to babbling to crawling (and maybe even walking). But how can you tell if their hearing is developing normally?
All newborn babies should have their hearing tested by the time they are a month old. Your baby most likely had their hearing screened before you left the hospital. This simple test takes just a few minutes, and babies often sleep through it.
Most babies pass their hearing screening the first time. If your baby didn’t pass theirs, it doesn’t mean they have hearing loss. They may just need to get re-screened. However, if they don’t pass a second screening, they’ll need a full hearing test before they're 3 months old to find out how well they hear.
Know the Milestones
Some babies develop hearing problems as they get older. Even if your baby passed their newborn hearing screening, continue to watch for signs that they're hearing well as they grow and change. Use these guidelines to see if your baby’s hearing development is on track. Just keep in mind that all babies are different and reach milestones at slightly different ages.
Birth to 3 months:
- Reacts to loud sounds
- Makes soft sounds
- Smiles or calms down when spoken to
- Knows your voice and calms down if crying
4 to 6 months:
- Follows sounds with their eyes
- Responds to tones of voice
- Makes babbling sounds
- Likes rattles and other toys that make sounds
- Pays attention to music
- Can become upset by loud sounds
7 to 12 months:
- Responds to their own name or another sound, even if it isn’t loud
- Looks or turns in the direction of sounds
- Listens when spoken to
- Responds to simple requests, like “come here”
- Looks at things you talk about
- Begins to repeat sounds
When to Visit the Doctor
Parents and grandparents are most likely to notice a possible hearing problem because they spend the most time with the baby. If you think your baby may have trouble hearing, work with your pediatrician to make an appointment with a hearing specialist (audiologist) before your baby is 3 months old. Babies whose hearing loss is discovered and treated early can develop normal speech and language along with other children their age.
Though the reasons for hearing loss in babies often aren’t known, your baby’s hearing specialist may ask you about some things that may affect their chances of having it:
- Do other family members have a hearing problem?
- Were there medical problems during the pregnancy or delivery?
- Was your baby born early?
- Did your baby have a low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces)?
It’s important to know, though, that as many as 50% of babies born with hearing loss don’t have any known risk factors. Also, hearing loss can sometimes be caused by other health problems, so your baby may also be evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist.
If your baby has hearing loss, you’re not alone. Millions of young children and their families across the country share your experience. Ask your pediatrician if there is a parent group or support organization in your area you can tap into for insight and encouragement. You may be able to help other parents, too.