Hearing in Babies and Kids – All You Need To Know as a Parent


hearing in babies

How can you as a parent find out problems related to hearing in babies from an early age? How to check baby’s hearing?

What are the stages of hearing development in babies?

What are the signs and symptoms of hearing problems in infants and kids?

What are the new born screening tests available for hearing?

How can you protect your baby’s ears from harm?

Today in this post let’s discuss everything in detail about hearing in babies.

Your child, your precious little bundle. Every sound she makes is like music to your ears. Yes there are times when you wonder if she would ever stop crying, and for some fortunate ones, you wait patiently for her to make asound. And you wonder how you sound to her.

At times you may feel that your child can’t hear you for she is lost in her own world, trying to process the new world she is in now. And yet there are times where you wonder if it is normal. Call me paranoid, but I did.

While your baby’s eyesight is not so strong in the beginning, his hearing is pretty good. Hey, I said good, not perfect. So don’t panic if you whisper and your kid doesn’t respond.  But you need to consult our pediatrician if your child doesn’t respond to loud sounds and doesn’t turn his head towards the source of the sound if he has attained proper neck control.

How is the sense of hearing important?

 As I said, your child’s sense of hearing is better than his sense of sight. For him that is important to connect to the outside world. He needs this sense for learning how to speak.

Initially, your child learns by listening and imitating. It may sound like gibberish but that’s the foundation of speech.

Developmental stages of hearing in babies:

 The different stages of infant hearing development are as follows.

  • Auditory awareness: The stage where they are aware of sounds.
  • Auditory localization: Did you know that babies don’t exactly localize sounds till they attain proper neck control? 
  • Auditory discrimination: At this stage they are able to discriminate between the various sounds they here.

Causes of hearing loss in babies and adults:

Hearing loss can be classified according to

  • The intensity – Mild, moderate or severe depending on the decibel levels.
  • The part affected – Conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss and mixed type.
  • Genetic – Congenital and acquired.

Some of the causes of hearing loss are listed below.

    • Genetic problem
    • Certain medication taken during pregnancy
    • Complications at the time of birth
    • Infections during pregnancy (e.g. German measles)
    • Family history
    • Middle ear infection (Otitis Media)
    • Diseases like meningitis, measles etc.
    • Injury to eardrum
    • Exposure to loud sounds
    • Certain medicines

Keep in mind build of wax, foreign objects stuck in the ear and swollen adenoids can cause temporary hearing loss.

How to find out if your child has a hearing problem?

Can you test baby hearing at home? Yes!

Given below is a basic checklist which can be used to determine if your child has a hearing issue. It is based on the milestone that a child is expected to achieve according to his or her age. If he or she has not achieved these, then let your doctor know.

 Babies below 4 months

  1. Responds to loud sounds
  2. Recognizes the sound of the mother

Babies below 9 months

  1. Searches for the source of sounds
  2. Likes to play with noise making toys
  3. Realizes when she is being spoken to
  4. Starts understanding simple words

Children below 14 months

  1. Responds to her name when called
  2. Has started babbling a lot
  3. Imitates the sounds you make
  4. Understands simple requests and follows them

Children below 24 months

11. Likes listening to songs and stories

12. Tries to use different words

13. Points to different objects/body parts when asked

14. Strings two words together in an attempt to form sentences

Older kids

For kids older than two, it is easier for the parents to find out if your child has difficulties in hearing.

  1. Able to answer questions.
  2. Responds when he or she is called
  3. Watches TV at a normal volume
  4. Speaks at a normal volume. Shouting once a while is fine but talking loudly always is a warning sign.
  5. Has caught up with children his age in terms of vocabulary.
  6. Is able to express his thoughts.
  7. Is able to understand others.

Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Ear pain or tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • Relies on his vision to imitate others
  • Irritation and restlessness
  • Scratching the ear often
  • Sudden dip in grades at school

How to safeguard your child’s hearing?

While you don’t have control over all the causes of hearing loss, you can definitely safeguard your child against certain things that causes acquired hearing loss.

  • Make sure your child is vaccinated. You can refer to the immunization schedule along with catch up schedule for babies.
  • Avoid using q tips or cotton buds to clean your child’s ear. Your child may imitate you and put something in her ear which can damage the eardrum. You can also read about cleaning baby’s ears the right way.
  • Avoid areas with loud music.
  • Avoid letting your child listen to music with headphones, at a high volume.
  • Monitor your child after ear infections to see if there is any change in behavior.

New born hearing screening:

Experts say that if detected by 6 months of age, you ensure that your child gets the necessary treatment and also ensure there is no delay in speech. That’s where new born screening comes into play.

Some hospitals have tests done before you leave the hospital. If it is not done at the time of discharge, you should do it within the first 4 weeks.

Let us see the tests that are done to find out how well your child’s sense of hearing works.

Here the screening equipment measures the response of the inner ear to the sound emitted by a small earpiece. If the baby can hear normally the system is able to pick up a response.

  • AABR (Automated Auditory Brainstem Response)

While in the first test, only the ear’s response to sound is checked, here the brain’s response to sound is measured. This is done with the help of sensors.

And in case you were wondering, both these test do not cause any pain to the little ones.

For kids who do not pass these tests there are other tests that provide a conclusive diagnosis.

Apart from these tests it is mandatory that you take your kids for regular check-ups so that his/ her paeditrician can see if anything is amiss.

  • Other screening tests

Screening tests can be objective or subjective.

OAE and AABR are objective hearing tests as the subject doesn’t have to do much and the equipments take care of everything. This test is suitable for babies and older kids who are unable to take the other test due to any reasons.

In subjective hearing tests, the participation of the subject has a direct bearing on the accuracy of the test result. The person undergoing the test will be asked if he can hear certain sounds and he has to answer whether or not he can hear them. The name of this test is Pure Tone Test and it is suitable for older kids and adults.

Hope this post on hearing in babies and the related information was helpful. But in case you wish to know more or add more information, write to me in the comments.


About Author

A stay at home mom for a feisty 19 month old named Ahaana, Chitra Santosh has rekindled her romance with words once again now. Though Arakkonam is her home, she can be seen migrating to Mavelikara, a quaint little town in Alappey during summers. Studies have shown that this has no connection with the migratory patterns of birds.


  1. That sounds great!! I am a professional working in this field since last 12 years. I have pursued my doctorate and post doc in Speech pathology. If you need any help do let me know. I would be glad to do.


    • Chitra Santosh on

      Dear Banu,

      I am not, but this article was vetted by an early intervention specialist. I was prompted to write about this topic because I had a friend who hearing impaired from birth.
      Really glad to know that that you liked it. Tc

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