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Being a new parent is one of the most exciting times of life, but it can also be really overwhelming. Understanding what is normal, and what is cause for concern, is something that has to be learned. There is no one-size-fits-all guide to development in infants and children, because no two children are the same.
The same goes for hearing development, but there are certain checks you can do to ensure your child is responding in a manner that is expected for their age. Hearing is key to almost every part of a child’s development in regards to social, emotional, and cognitive function, so even mild hearing loss left unaddressed can hinder their ability to learn speech and language.
How and when hearing develops
Your baby is born with fully developed hearing, and should respond to your voice or loud noises from birth. How they respond will depend on the individual baby’s temperament, with some jumping at every sound and others taking it in stride. For the first three months, don’t worry if your child doesn’t look towards noises, but focus more on whether they respond to your voice and are trying out some cooing noises of their own. This is the most important time for development, and catching hearing loss in this stage means it can be more easily addressed, so be sure to have your baby’s hearing checked regularly.
Around four to six months, he/she will start to follow sounds with their eyes, respond to your tone of voice, and pay attention to music and toys that make noise. If your child passed the newborn hearing test, it does not necessarily mean they are not at risk in the later months and years, so it is important to pay close attention to their development in regards to their hearing. However, babies naturally have the ability to sleep through loud noises, like a phone ringing or a doorbell, which is completely normal. They simply need their sleep.
At seven months to a year, your child will begin to communicate through hand gestures and “baby talk,” and will start to respond to and try imitate certain words. Over the following one to three years, he/she will begin to get a handle on language, and will be able to understand and answer simple questions. Again, no two children are the same, so these time frames are flexible, and if you are keeping up with regular checkups then there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
What you can do
From a young age, introduce you baby to a variety of sounds to get them used to the noisy world we live in. Reading to your child, singing nursery rhymes, and introducing them to your favourite music (at an appropriate level) are all great ways to start introducing your child to the cadence of language. Far before they understand what you may be seeing, your child will watch your mouth and begin to imitate language, which is a very important part of their development.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s hearing development, don’t hesitate to visit an audiologist or specialist to ensure there are no underlying issues.
For any questions, feel free to contact Cherie Yanke, Doctor of Audiology at firstname.lastname@example.org
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