How to Check If Your Newborn Can Hear

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Baby hearing development

As a parent, it’s natural to be concerned about your newborn’s health and development, and one important aspect to consider is their hearing.

Newborn hearing screening is crucial, as early detection of hearing issues in infants can significantly affect their overall development.

In this article, we’ll address your concerns, provide an overview of baby hearing milestones, and guide you through various methods for assessing infant hearing, both at home and professionally.

By better understanding the importance of newborn hearing tests, you’ll be better equipped to monitor your baby’s hearing development and take action if necessary.

So, let’s begin our journey toward ensuring your baby’s optimal hearing health!

Understanding Newborn Hearing

YouTube Channel: Mayo Clinic

Normal Hearing Development in Infants

Hearing plays a crucial role in a baby’s overall development, from language acquisition to social and emotional growth.

As they grow, infants reach several hearing milestones, such as responding to sounds, recognizing familiar voices, and beginning to imitate sounds.

In the first few months, babies should startle in response to sudden noises, and by six months, they should be able to turn their heads toward the source of the sound.

Signs of Hearing Loss in Babies

Awareness of potential signs of hearing loss in babies is essential, as early detection can lead to timely intervention and better outcomes.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Lack of response to sound: If your baby doesn’t react to loud noises or isn’t soothed by your voice, it might indicate a hearing problem.
  • Absence of startle reflexes: Babies with typical hearing will startle or jump in response to sudden loud noises. If this reflex is absent or weak, it may be a sign of hearing loss.
  • Limited or delayed speech development: If your baby isn’t babbling or cooing by six months or doesn’t start using simple words by one year, it could be a sign of a hearing issue.

At-Home Hearing Assessment

Before conducting hearing tests at home, it’s crucial to remember that these assessments are not a substitute for professional evaluation.

However, they can be a helpful way to monitor your baby’s response to sounds and identify potential concerns.

Observational Tests

One way to assess your newborn’s hearing is by observing their reactions to sudden noises and tracking sounds with their eyes.

Clap your hands or make a loud noise when your baby is awake but not looking at you.

If they have typical hearing, they should startle, turn their head, or move their eyes toward the source of the sound.

Vocalization Tests

Another approach is to pay attention to your baby’s vocal responses and reactions to familiar voices.

When you speak or sing to them, observe if they recognize your voice and respond with coos, babbles, or other vocalizations.

Other Simple Tests to Assess Hearing Ability

There are several other methods you can use to check your baby’s hearing, such as:

  • Clap and respond technique: Clap your hands behind your baby’s head and observe if they respond by turning towards the sound.
  • Using a rattle or bell: Shake it near your baby’s ear and watch for a response, such as turning their head or reaching for the object.
  • Whispering: Whisper your baby’s name or a familiar phrase and see if they react by looking at you or responding with a vocalization.

Professional Evaluation and Hearing Screening

While at-home tests can provide insight into your newborn’s hearing, seeking professional evaluation for an accurate assessment is essential.

Pediatricians and pediatric audiologists are experts in evaluating newborns’ hearing abilities and can perform comprehensive baby hearing screenings.

Newborn Hearing Screening Methods

Two primary methods for newborn hearing tests exist: Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) and Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE).

  • AABR measures the electrical activity of the auditory nerve in response to sound. Electrodes are placed on the baby’s head, and soft earphones deliver a series of clicks or tones. The test is non-invasive, painless, and can be performed while the baby is asleep.
  • OAE involves placing a tiny probe into the baby’s ear canal to measure the echo produced by the hair cells in response to sound. This test is also non-invasive and painless.
YouTube Channel: InteracousticsTV

Follow-up Procedures

If your baby doesn’t pass the initial hearing screening, a follow-up appointment with a pediatric audiologist is necessary for further evaluation.

Additional testing, intervention, or referrals to other specialists may be recommended depending on the results.

Support and Next Steps

As parents, ensuring the well-being and development of your newborn’s hearing is paramount.

This section will explore the crucial support and next steps to navigate if you have concerns about your baby’s hearing.

Coping with Hearing Loss in Newborns

If your baby is diagnosed with hearing loss, it’s essential to seek emotional support for yourself and connect with resources to help navigate this challenge.

Contact friends, family, and support groups to share your feelings and experiences.

Remember that early intervention can significantly impact your child’s development.

Intervention and Treatment Options

There are various intervention and treatment options available for newborns with hearing loss, including:

  • Early intervention programs: These programs provide comprehensive support and services, such as speech therapy, sign language instruction, and auditory training.
  • Hearing aids: These devices amplify sound and can be used by infants as young as a few months old.
  • Cochlear implants: These surgically implanted devices can help restore some degree of hearing in children with severe hearing loss.
  • Other assistive devices: Several devices, such as FM and sound field systems, can help improve listening and communication abilities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

At what age can a newborn hear?

Newborns are capable of hearing from birth. While their hearing is not fully developed, they can perceive sounds and respond to auditory stimuli. The auditory system of a newborn continues to mature during the early months of life, and they gradually become more responsive to different frequencies and tones.

Is it normal for newborns not to react to loud noises?

It is not uncommon for newborns to have varying reactions to loud noises. While some newborns may startle or react visibly to loud sounds, others may appear unfazed or not react at all. This can be due to the immaturity of their auditory system and the fact that they are still adapting to the outside world. However, if you consistently observe no reaction to any sound or have concerns about your newborn’s hearing, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Do babies with hearing loss cry?

Yes, babies with hearing loss can still cry. Crying is a natural way for babies to communicate their needs, discomfort, or distress. However, it’s important to note that the nature and quality of a baby’s cry can vary depending on the severity and type of hearing loss. Some babies with hearing loss may have different crying patterns, pitch, or volume than those with typical hearing.

Do deaf babies sleep more?

There is no direct correlation between being deaf and sleeping more in babies. The amount of sleep a baby needs varies individually and is influenced by age, developmental stage, and overall health. While it is true that some babies with hearing loss may experience challenges with sensory processing, including disturbances in their sleep patterns, it is not a universal characteristic for all deaf babies.

How do deaf newborns act?

Deaf newborns, like all newborns, can exhibit various behaviors and responses. It’s important to remember that being deaf does not inherently dictate specific behaviors. However, some deaf newborns may exhibit certain characteristics related to their hearing loss. For example, they may not startle or respond to loud sounds like babies with typical hearing. They may also rely more on visual cues, such as observing facial expressions or body language, to communicate and engage with their caregivers. It’s worth noting that each baby, deaf or not, has a unique temperament and personality.

Wrapping it Up

In this article, we’ve covered the importance of newborn hearing screening, baby hearing milestones, and various methods for assessing infant hearing at home and professionally.

Proactively monitoring your baby’s hearing and seeking professional guidance can ensure the best possible support for their development.

Remember, early detection and intervention are key to addressing hearing loss in newborns.

So, trust your instincts, and don’t hesitate to contact a professional if you have concerns about your baby’s hearing!

Sources

Author

  • Cam Russo

    Cam is a blogger, author, and content strategist with a keen love for the written word. His journey with high-functioning autism has kindled a strong advocacy for autism awareness. Today, Cam dedicates his efforts to educating parents. He sees laughter as a game-changer in learning, and strives every day to make education a fun and enjoyable journey for all his readers.