These are some general milestones for speech and language development. Every child develops at his or her own pace. However, if you are concerned about your baby’s hearing, read on to discover why identifying hearing issues early is key.
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Babies are able to hear when they are born. In the last few months before birth, babies can hear sounds clearly. Even most babies who are born early can hear at birth.
Hearing is important in daily activities. It is also essential to normal oral language development. In infants, learning to speak depends on hearing sound and imitating what is heard. If newborns have hearing problems, language development may be affected. Since hearing and oral language abilities are important to communication and social interaction, this can have a serious effect.
Hearing issues during the first few years of life can affect language skills later on. Even if hearing loss is corrected later, it can be difficult to catch up. If hearing issues do exist, it is best to know about them as early as possible.
Hearing issues are a common problem in newborns. About two to three out of every 1000 babies born will have permanent hearing problems. The chance of hearing problems increase if a baby has:
Babies are not able to tell us if they can hear. The easiest way to learn whether hearing is normal or not is by observing the response to sounds and voices. Watch how your newborn responds to loud sounds, especially during sleep. Babies usually have an obvious response to sounds like a door slamming. They may twitch, or even wake and cry when they hear very loud sounds.
In addition to observation, certain quick and easy medical tests can confirm if babies have hearing problems. Screening programs for newborn hearing are available in some hospitals. Ask to have your baby’s hearing tested.
An audiologist (hearing specialist) or nurse can identify most babies with hearing problems using these non-invasive screening tests. If there is a concern, babies are referred for further tests to confirm. Although these screening tests are not perfect, they are very useful for finding problems early.
Many ways exist to help babies with hearing problems. Usually, these babies are assessed and treated by a team of hearing specialists. Audiologists, ear, nose and throat specialists, and speech-language pathologists can all be part of the team.
A range of treatments is available. If babies have some hearing, the most common treatment is to wear hearing aids. These devices amplify sound to make up for the hearing loss. Certain issues can be corrected or improved by surgery. Other supports to enhance communication and learning can be helpful. Sign language is also an option.
Issues with hearing are common in newborns. Many methods can be used to detect a hearing problem. Discovering and treating hearing problems early will make a difference to your baby’s oral language skills and learning.
If problems are caught early, babies have the best chance to enjoy the beautiful sounds of the world.