Just after 20 weeks of pregnancy, your baby’s inner ear is fully developed and babies are born with fully developed hearing. Hence, they can hear from the time they are born. Babies use ears to collect information about the world around them. It even stimulates their brain development. Hearing problems can delay the development of voice, speech and language skills. Hence, it is important to identify hearing problems as soon as possible.
Warning signs of hearing problem in babies
Symptoms of hearing loss can be different for babies and the level of hearing impairment may vary. Warning signs are not always a cause of worry, sometimes a baby may not hear due to its surroundings. But, do contact your doctor if you see any of the following signs –
1. Baby doesn’t get startled by loud noise.
2. Soft sounds don’t help in soothing the baby.
3. Baby doesn’t respond to voices, music, and videos.
4. Even after two months, your baby doesn’t make vowel sounds like ‘ohm’.
5. Baby doesn’t become quite even after hearing familiar voices.
6. Baby doesn’t turn eyes or head towards a sound.
7. Baby is still asleep even when there are sounds of voices and noise nearby.
Hearing development in babies
From the time babies are born, they pay close attention to the voices and they respond to familiar voices. By the end of the first month, their hearing would be fully developed. They may also get surprised when they hear loud and unexpected noises. By the third month, your baby’s temporal lobe will be more active which helps them in hearing, language, and smell. So, when your baby hears your voice for a short period of time she may directly look at you and try to talk back.
By the end of the fifth month, your baby will be completely aware of where the sounds are coming from. They immediately turn towards you when you call them. At this stage, some babies can even recognize their own name.
Milestones of hearing in babies
Most of the babies now undergo a hearing screening test before they are discharged from the hospital. Those who fail the screenings are immediately referred to specialists for further diagnostic tests. According to doctors and experts, the list mentioned below is the age-appropriate hearing milestones for babies:
From birth to three months
• Surprised reaction to loud sounds
• Soft noise soothes and relaxes them.
• Loud noise awakes them from sleep.
• Turns to you when she hears something from you.
• Quiets down crying after hearing your voice.
• At times, they smile when they hear familiar voices.
Three to six months
• Turns around if she hears a new sound.
• Tries to imitate a familiar voice.
• They get scared by a loud noise.
• Responds to changes in tone of voice.
• Begins to repeat sounds (ooo, aaa).
Six to ten months
• Babies make babbling sounds when alone.
• Reacts when her name is called.
• Responds to requests such as, ‘come here’.
• Gives response to few common words such as hi or bye-bye.
• They start looking at things when someone points at it and speaks about it.
• It is said that babies start understanding their father’s voice from the eighth month.
Ten to fifteen months
• They follow one step commands when you show them with gestures.
• Enjoys the sound and feel of own voice.
• Enjoys playing hide and seek with you.
• They start pointing at familiar people or objects when you ask them to do it.
• May start using few single words.
Fifteen to eighteen months
• Knows more than twenty words.
• Will be able to point out few body parts if asked.
• They start using the words they know very often.
• Will be able to understand directions with oral commands.
• Can fluently speak two to three sentences.
Eighteen to twenty-four months
• They enjoy when you read to them.
• Points to pictures when asked
• Can understand simple yes/no commands
• They start grasping simple phrases.
Twenty-four to twenty-six months
• Understands action commands like walk, jump, and run.
• They can choose sizes (big/small).
• Starts to understand two-step commands.
• They can grasp commands such as not now and no more.
Developmental milestones of hearing: Things you can do to enhance your baby’s hearing
1. Talking, reading, and singing helps your baby develop her hearing and personality.
2. Constantly speaking to your baby helps in bonding and language development.
3. Use a sing-song voice to get her attuned to different tones and patterns of speech.
4. Let her enjoy the sounds of everyday life.
5. Keep constantly describing what she is hearing.
6. You may notice how your baby seems to enjoy particular music as she develops her own taste.
7. Babies often get amused by sounds of a clock ticking and wind chimes.
8. Try varying the pitch of voice as you read to make it more fun for her.
9. The more she hears, the more she will learn as she gets to talk.