The incidence of hearing impairment in children has increased in recent years. The main reason for this is the noisiness of our everyday environments. Our ears don’t get a break and we expose them to all kinds of loud noises constantly. A child’s hearing is very important for the development of language and speech. If you are worried that your child may be experiencing hearing difficulties, look for signs as set out here.
There are certain milestones or behaviors that you can expect from a baby or child.
From birth to 4 months your baby should:
Respond to loud sounds. If you speak loudly or door slam or thunderclaps, your baby should show a response to the noise. The response can be waking up from a nap, being startled, even crying. If they don’t, it may be a sign of hearing impairment.
Respond to familiar voices. Your baby should calm down when upset if you speak or sing to him. He should also respond with noises or smiles when he recognizes a familiar voice. People who spend time with your baby on a daily basis should have an effect when he hears their voices.
From 4 months to 9 months your baby should:
Respond to familiar sounds. Familiar sounds can be the television, a friend visiting, a favorite toy rattling, the dog barking, etc. You should see your baby responding to these sounds with a motion towards where the sound is coming from, for example, trying to look to the source of the sound.
Smile and babble. When familiar voices and faces speak, your baby should offer smiles at this age. He should also babble in response to a conversation or just to himself when he is playing. Smiles and babbling is a normal part of the development of hearing and communication.
Show understanding of basic gestures. When you say ‘bye’ and wave, your baby should show some understanding of the concept.
From 9 months to 15 months your baby should:
Use his voice. The speech will be very basic still at this age, but you should see signs of babbling different sounds and learning to say things like ‘mama’ or ‘dada’. He should also be using his voice to attract attention when he needs something or wants something.
Respond to a tone of voice. When you change your voice from friendly to strict or friendly to sad, your baby should pick up on the change and react accordingly.
From 15 to 24 months you should see your baby building on these simple responses and understanding. He should show understanding of stories you read or songs you sing. He should be able to say simple words and follow spoken instructions.
If your baby doesn’t show the appropriate signs for a given age, take him to an audiologist to be tested. It is important to remember that every baby develops in his own time and at his own pace. However, if you notice no responses or appropriate behavior according to the signs listed above, you should get a professional opinion.