Did you know that May is “Better Hearing & Speech” month? When I became an audiologist many years ago, it was considered a great success if a child with hearing loss had been fitted with hearing aids by 2 years of age. Awareness of audiology and better hearing has come a long way since then. Now, we routinely work with parents and infants with hearing loss who are 1-2 months old!

One of the primary reasons babies with hearing loss are identified early today is that all newborns undergo a hearing screening at birth while they are still in the hospital. Finding hearing loss early and starting intervention is important because studies have shown better outcomes in communication and learning for children when services begin early.  Florida’s state law requiring a newborn hearing screening was put into effect in 2000.

However, some children may experience hearing loss that occurs later on. Often parents are the first ones to suspect their child might have a hearing problem. Parents used to tell me that everyone told them “not to worry” if their child did not turn to sound, make sounds or start talking on time. Today’s parents and professionals alike seek a hearing test for their child if there are any concerns. Know that any child of any age can have a hearing test by a pediatric audiologist.

What are some of the signs parents can look for that their child is responding well to sound?

Does your baby:

Birth – 3 months

  • Jump or startle to loud sounds?
  • Quiet or smile to your voice?

4-6 months

  • Move his/her eyes in direction of sounds?
  • Begin to turn his/her head toward sounds and your voice?
  • Pay attention to music?
  • Babble using “oo”, “ah” and some consonants like “p”, “b”, “m”?

7 months – 1 year

  • Turn head by 8 months to new and interesting sounds, voices, telephone?
  • Listen when spoken to?
  • Recognizes familiar words, “juice” “shoe” “cup”?
  • Begin to respond to requests, “Come here” “Want more”?
  • Use gestures to communicate?
  • Jabber and babble using different speech sounds and volume level?
  • Have 1-2 words around the first birthday?

1-2 years

  • Point to body parts when asked?
  • Follow single directions and understand simple questions, “Roll the ball” and “Where’s your shoe?”?
  • Point to pictures in a book when named?
  • Use some 1-2 word questions and phrases “Where’s kitty?” “More milk.”?

2-3 years

  • Understand differences in meaning, “go-stop”, “big-little”?
  • Follow 2 requests “Get your shoes and bring them to Mommy”?
  • Listen to and enjoys hearing stories for longer periods of time?
  • Have a word for almost everything?
  • Use 2-3 words to talk about and ask for things?
  • Use speech that is understood by familiar listeners almost all the time?

Does your preschooler:

3-4 years

  • Hear TV or radio at the same loudness level as other family members?
  • Answer simple “who?” “what?” “where?” “why?” questions?
  • Use a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words?
  • Talk about activities at school or at friends’ homes?
  • Use speech that people outside the family usually understand?

 4-5 years

  • Pay attention to short stories and answers simple questions about them?
  • Understand words that involve sequencing (first, last) and time (yesterday, today)?
  • Hear and understand most of what is said at school?
  • Use sentences that give lots of details?
  • Communicate easily with other children and adults?
  • Name some letters and numbers?

Does your school aged or older child:

  • Respond appropriately to questions?
  • Reply when you call him/her?
  • Listen to TV or music at appropriate volume levels?
  • Have any speech language delays or speech is different from other children of the same age?
  • Complain of earache, ear pain or head noises?
  • Sometimes appear to hear well, sometimes does not hear well?
  • Perform well in class?
  • Hear and understand the teacher when given multi-step spoken directions?
  • Hear differences between similar words “walk” “walks” “walking”?
  • Hear and understand as well as his peers when background noise is present?
  • Seem to hear better from one ear than from the other?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s hearing, see a pediatric audiologist for a complete hearing assessment.  Children of any age can be tested.  It is never too early to have your child’s hearing evaluated!  More information can be found at: www.asha.org/public/  and www.howsyourhearing.org.

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