Hearing Concerns

How can I tell if my infant is hearing properly?
By 2 months of age, most infants are able to respond to sudden loud noise, such as a doorbell, the ring of a telephone, or the shake of a bell or rattle.  The usual infant responses are a startle (quick movements of the arms or legs), a cry, pausing during an activity such as sucking or feeding, or squinting and blinking of the eyelids.
By 3 to 5 months of age, infants are typically able to locate a loud noise by turning his or her eyes and head in the direction of the noise, if located to the right or left.  Facial expressions and beginning vocalizations such as cooing, gurgling, or babbling begin to occur in response to a parent’s normal voice level or tone.
By 6 months of age, your child should be able to accurately locate normal voice sounds at 8 to 10 feet away from either the right or left side.  Your child’s response should be to turn in the direction of your voice.  Try this test several times if your baby doesn’t respond.  Make sure your infant isn’t sleeping, eating or unusually fussy during the test. Babbling begins around this age as your baby starts making varied sounds like “ahh, ooh, uh.”
By 9 months of age, your child will soon imitate a few simple combinations sounds like “ba-ba, ma-ma or da-da.”  He or she begins to respond to softer sounds such as whispering words at close range.  Normal voice levels may awaken your baby from sleep.  He or she will start to attend to sounds that originate from other rooms.
By 12 months of age, hearing can be evaluated by your child’s speech pattern and understanding of spoken words.  Babbling takes on a pattern similar to normal speech.  Your child will be able to start to say a few words by 1 year of age and follow simple commands.  More spontaneous babbling emerges as you interact with your child.
What should I do if I suspect a hearing problem?
If you believe that your child is not responding appropriately to sounds or his or her speech is delayed, contact your baby’s physician.  A hearing specialist (audiologist) can test your child in a more detailed manner, and a referral will be made by your physician, if he/she suspects a problem.
Are there any factors which might contribute or predispose my child to hearing difficulties?
A family history of hearing problems may put your child at higher risk.  If other family members had hearing difficulties at a young age, especially if they require a hearing aid, your baby’s pediatrician may want to formally screen your child soon after birth.
Frequent ear infections, especially if the infections are difficult to clear, can cause a delay in speech due to a temporary hearing loss.  Your pediatrician will want to recheck your child’s ears after treatment to make sure the infection has cleared.  If antibiotics are unsuccessful in curing an infection and speech is significantly delayed, a referral to an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be necessary.