Babies can hear their mother’s voice and heartbeat and other noises even when they are still in the womb. In fact, they can even tell the difference between their mother’s language and a foreign language just after birth. A study from the University of Helsinki demonstrated that babies could hear and remember a nursery rhyme that was played for them during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Nevertheless, a baby’s hearing is not as developed as an adult’s or even an older child’s. As their ears continue to grow and their brains absorb and process more information, an infant’s hearing becomes acuter.
How do you know if your baby is on track to develop normal hearing or if it’s time for an evaluation by a pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor in Birmingham? The following checklist can help you be sure your baby’s hearing is progressing as expected. You can print it out or keep a copy on your smartphone for easy reference.
Hearing Milestones in Infants
Newborn babies have already been listening to you for at least 10 weeks in utero! However, their middle ear is still filled with fluid and this will muffle sounds somewhat. The structure of their ears is also still developing, which is why they respond best to louder sounds.
A newborn baby whose hearing is normal:
- Responds to or turns toward high-pitched sounds or voices
- Responds to or turns toward exaggerated sounds or voices
- Startles at unexpected noises
- May respond to the sound of your voice
- May respond to lullabies you commonly sing
1 to 3 Months
By the time a baby is 3-months-old, the temporal lobe in the brain will have developed sufficiently to be more active. The temporal lobe controls smell, hearing and language. Although a baby will be more responsive than he/she was as a newborn, he/she may sometimes turn away when you are talking, singing or reading. Listening is hard work and sometimes your baby needs a break.
Here are a few signs that your child’s hearing is progressing:
- Looks directly at you when you talk or sing
- Smiles at you when you speak or sing
- May try to “talk back” by gurgling or cooing
- Awakens at loud sounds
- Reacts to noise
- Calms down when you talk
- Stops feeding or sucking in response to noise
3 to 6 Months
At around 3 to 4 months, babies become more interactive when hearing a sound and may:
- Watch your mouth while you speak or sing
- Try to speak
- Form consonants such as “m” and “b”
- Listen to music
- Be interested in toys that make noise
- Understand words like “bye-bye” or “mama”
- Follow sounds with eyes
- Respond to changes in tone of voice
- Make gurgling sounds when playing or when alone
6 to 9 Months
By the time babies 6 or 7 months old, they are able to locate where sounds arise.
The following lists new sound-related skills and behaviors:
- Turns toward a new sound
- Can respond to quiet noises such as whispers
- Responds to name
- Says words such as “mama” or “dada”
- Listens to you when you speak
- Responds if you say “no”
- Understands basic words such as “juice,” “bottle” and “pacifier”
- Babbles using longer words
9 to 12 Months
Although their ears are still developing, babies past 9 months become even more responsive to sounds, assign meanings to them and become more fluent in their ability to imitate them.
By the time your baby is a year old, he/she should be able to:
- Respond to simple requests such as “come here” or “roll the ball”
- Imitate the sounds and intonations of speech
- Enjoy being read to or sung to
- Point to simple objects in books such as “dogs”
- Regularly acquire new words
- Sing along with his favorite songs
- Use a variety of consonants at the beginning of words and/or babbling
Learn more about your baby’s hearing development at WebMD.com.
Stay On Track
If your child is not developing on track, there’s no need to worry. However, you should have them evaluated by an expert ENT for hearing disorders in children. Your child may have excess fluid in their Eustachian tubes (ear canal) that could be muffling sounds. Or there could be another structural problem that is interfering with their ability to hear and/or process sounds. The board-certified pediatricians at Pediatric ENT Associates are happy to meet with you and your baby for consultation and evaluation. You can reach us at our offices in Birmingham at (205) 831-0101 or our online contact form.
Next, read When is it More Than a Cold?