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Postnatal Auditory Development

Babies begin to hear in the last few months of pregnancy. Thus, when an infant emerges into the world, they are well equipped for hearing, although some evidence exists that an infant's sensory threshold is higher than that of an adult (i.e. a stimulus must be louder to be heard by a newborn).
However, if a newborn child does not display the follow, it may be a sign of a hearing problem:

  • Does not startle, move, cry or react in any way to unexpected loud noises.
  • Does not awaken to loud noises.
  • Does not turn his/her head in the direction of a parent's voice.
  • Does not freely imitate sound. [ 1 ]

1-3 Month Old . During this period babies love to hear their parents voices. Babies this age seem to respond best to the female voice, the one historically associated with comfort and food. That's why most people will raise the pitch of their voices and exaggerate their speech when talking to a small baby.
Besides voices, infants this age will enjoy listening to music and are fascinated by the routine sounds of life as well.

4-7 Month Old . A baby's hearing is crucial to speech development. During this period most babies are beginning to understand the fundamentals of communication through hearing and language. When younger, a baby understands meaning through the tone of voice, but now the infant is beginning to pick out the components of speech. Most infants this age can hear and understand the different sounds a parent makes and the way words form sentences.
By the 7th month, most babies should recognise and respond to their own name. Most babies also make more attempts to imitate sounds and spend more of their time babbling during this period. This babbling are the baby's early attempts at speaking and should be encouraged as much as possible.

8-12 Month Old . During this period, most babies will be making more and more recognisable sounds, such as "ga," "ba," and "da." These sounds tell you that your baby's been listening to you for quite some time. You'll also know your baby is hearing you and understanding what you say when you ask: "Where's Daddy?" and she looks his way, or you say: "Go find the blue ball," and she crawls over to it.
By the end of her first year, your baby should be responding well to simple requests from you ("Wave bye-bye!") and should be making some valiant babbling attempts at real conversation.

1-2 Years Old . No matter when your child says his first words, it's a sure bet he'll be understanding much of what is said to him/her well before that. He should be able to respond to commands ("Roll the ball to Mommy") and should be fully aware of the names of familiar objects and family members. This tells you that the baby's hearing is functioning well and helping in the development of language skills. Babies during this period will also enjoy the other pleasures of hearing: listening to children's songs and music, laughing and yelling with friends in the park, listening to a bedtime story.

More than 3 million American children have a hearing loss, an estimated 1.3 million of whom are under 3 years of age. Hearing loss can be temporary, caused by ear wax or middle ear infections .

If you are concerned about your baby's hearing, contact your baby's doctor.

For more developmental milestones in an infant's first year, go here .

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):

1. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery: http://www.aaohns.org/index2.cfm


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  http://www.hon.ch/Dossier/MotherChild/postnatal/hearing_dev.html Last modified: Oct 21 2004