Keep a close watch on your baby's hearing development

Babies use their ears to take in massive amounts of information about the world around them. Hearing also enables them to learn language and stimulates brain development. Your baby should receive a hearing screening test shortly after birth. From then on, the doctor should do a hearing check at every visit.

How hearing develops

The inner ear is fully developed by about 20 weeks of pregnancy and babies are born with fully developed hearing – so your baby is ready to listen and learn from inside your tummy. From birth, babies pay close attention to voices, especially high-pitched ones. Your baby will respond to familiar sounds and probably startle at loud or unexpected noises. Temperament plays an important role on how your baby responds to sound. A sensitive baby may get alarmed at every little noise as compared to a calmer baby.

At 2 months babies make vowel sounds. They may not always look at you when you are talking or reading to them. But that is normal. If they do not at all respond then bring this to your doctor's notice. At 4-6 moths they try imitate sounds made and by the first birthday they start muttering single words like ma-ma, da-da etc.

The hearing milestones differ from child to child. So do not worry too much. Even though the sense of hearing is up and running at birth, the portions of the brain that respond to complex sounds and attach meaning to what is heard continue to develop until about age 12.

Your role in protecting your baby's hearing ability

  • Keep things out of his ears, including cotton swabs.
  • Help him stay as healthy as possible – to prevent ear infections.
  • Protect them from loud, prolonged noises. (A good rule of thumb is that the noise level should be low enough that you're comfortable talking over it.)

Your role in the development of your baby's hearing ability

  • Explore music. Play nursery rhymes or even your favourite music.
  • Read early on. There should be no reason for you to delay this. Ensure you modulate your voice, use different accents, even multiple languages. The more he hears you the more you are preparing him to talk.
  • You do not need to bombard him with big words. But put words to actions you are performing with him to make it fun. Like while changing clothes, taking a stroll in the park, packing bags etc. Make sure you point to the object while saying the word to help them identify and not confuse them.

When to be concerned

The vast majority of babies have excellent hearing, but a few have problems, especially if they were born very prematurely or were deprived of oxygen or had a severe infection at birth. Babies with a family history of congenital hearing loss are more likely to have impaired hearing. These risk factors will be taken into consideration when your baby's hearing is evaluated.

Parents are often the first to realize that something's wrong. So let your baby's doctor know right away if you notice any warning signs of hearing loss. You may be referred to an audiologist (a hearing expert) for a comprehensive hearing test.

The earlier a baby's hearing problems are found, the better. Providing hearing assistance to children who need it before they're 6 months old significantly improves speech and language development..