When Can a Baby Hear – Newborn Hearing Development

A mother talking to her baby

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The development of your baby’s ability to hear can be extremely important. This is because hearing is one of the senses that help your baby communicate. Your baby begins to listen to sounds and mimic them; thus, developing their ability to speak. They also listen to the sound of a parent for comfort. Hearing is actually one of the cornerstones of a baby’s development. This doesn’t mean that your baby won’t grow if they can’t hear, but it does mean they grow faster if they can.

How Will Your Baby React to Sound?

A mother talking to her baby

The first sense that your baby develops is hearing. In fact, it is known that babies develop their hearing ability even before being born. This is one of the reasons a lot of parents play music or talk to their baby when the baby is still in the womb. Your baby’s ability to react to sound develops for months before their birth and can be fully developed as early as a month after he born. Even though hearing is fully developed within the first month, your baby may only start to respond to sounds much later. You can also expect him to react to sounds in different ways, for instance, humming to your child while putting them to sleep can stop him from crying, the same can be said about when you have conversations with him.

How to Know if Your Baby is Clearly Hearing or Not

The process to understand if your baby is hearing clearly or not is done through a screening process called Otoacoustic emissions (OAE). This is done when your baby is still in the hospital right after the delivery. If you are unsure of whether your baby can hear clearly or not, talk to your doctor. He will share the results of your baby’s auditory screening and if needed run another screening to ensure your baby can hear correctly.

When Do Babies Start Hearing After Birth?

One of the most difficult questions to answer is when can your baby hear sounds for the first time. This is because the development of babies’ hearing, as mentioned, is developed within the womb, and the exact time they begin to hear is hard to estimate as it is case-specific. But, you will notice if that they can hear sounds as they will kick consistently when they hear a familiar sound. The voice of your partner can cause a reaction, for instance. After birth, your baby’s hearing develops at an extremely rapid pace and will be fully developed between 4-7 weeks.

Baby Hearing Development

Monitoring your baby’s hearing development can be important for the first year after birth. Here is a rough timeline of what you can expect in their hearing development.

  • 0-2 months – Your baby’s hearing has fully developed. He may not respond to the sounds, but through screenings done by your doctor, you can monitor his growth. This is around the time when they can clearly hear high-pitched sounds.
  • 3 months – This is approximately when you can expect your baby to have some form of reaction to sounds, usually in the form of sound mimicking. You can expect him to gurgle or coo in response to your voice or other sounds. This is his way of trying to develop speech patterns as well.
  • 6 months – This hearing milestone is when your baby will be more responsive to subtler sounds and may try mimicking sounds that aren’t familiar. By this time, your little one may even recognize their name and respond well to it.
  • 12 months – The final milestone for hearing. Your baby can now recognise and respond to the most subtle or understated sounds. Expect him to even recognize his favourite songs or cartoon voices at this stage.

Things You Can Do to Develop Your Newborn’s Hearing

There are always methods to help you develop your newborn baby’s hearing, here are a few tips to help you do that:

  • Have your baby around conversations. Ask your partner to converse with him constantly and you should do the same as well.
  • Play calm, relaxing music. Preferably, instrumental smooth jazz is known to help develop acoustic senses, calm your child down and develop his hearing. Western classical music is also commonly known to have a similar effect.
  • Your partner and you should constantly sing to him or read to him. A newborn relaxes when he hears the voice of his parents.
  • When your baby is old enough, get him toys that have musical elements.
  • Observe your baby and emphasise on any sound that he is attracted to. If he hears an aeroplane in the sky, look at him and acknowledge that you heard it too.

How Can You Tell Whether the Sound is Too Loud for your Infant?

This can be tricky. To begin with, it takes a baby approximately 3 months to be able to react to sounds. During the first 3 months, it is recommended that you keep loud sounds at bay as much as possible. After the 3rd month, your baby will react to sounds that are too loud by crying. As they grow, their response to sounds that are too loud can be more and more unique. Some children after the age of six months can cry, some may get startled and become very quiet. If they can move, some children may try moving away from the loud noises.

Factors Affecting an Infant’s Hearing

There are many factors that can affect your baby’s hearing. Here are some:

  • Constant exposure to loud noises
  • Lack of oxygen during birth
  • Premature delivery
  • Genetic disorders
  • Exposure to infections like rubella during pregnancy
  • Blunt force trauma to the head
  • Ear infections
  • Damage to the eardrums caused By Q-tips or earbuds
  • Exposure to fireworks
  • High fevers

In the situation your child is exposed to these factors, it may impair his hearing either temporarily or permanently.

Hearing Screening Test for Infants

It is now the norm for most hospitals to run routine screenings for hearing soon after the birth of your baby. Once you have recovered to some extent after the delivery, you can consult your doctor to know the result of your baby’s auditory screening. If they haven’t yet done it, ensure they do before you leave the hospital. After getting home, using the guidelines provided above, you can run a hearing test at home by monitoring his reactions to sounds at regular intervals and comparing them to the hearing development milestone mentioned earlier.

When to Worry About Your Newborn’s Hearing

A general rule of thumb for your baby’s hearing is to understand that they have already begun hearing after birth. If your baby fails their screening at the hospital or is struggling to reach their hearing development milestones, you may need to seek medical advice.

Babies have a fully developed auditory system within 1-2 months after birth. With the tips mentioned above, you can sharpen their hearing and derive the most from it.

Also Read: Newborn Growth & Development