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Why is it important to have my baby’s hearing screened early?

2012-08-09

The most important time for a child to learn language is in the first 3 years of life. In fact, children begin learning speech and language in the first 6 months of life. Research suggests that children with hearing loss who get help early develop better language skills than those who don’t. The earlier you know about a child’s hearing loss, the sooner you can make sure your child benefits from strategies that will help him or her learn to successfully communicate.

How can I recognize if my child develops hearing loss later in childhood?

Even though the screening tests are designed to detect hearing loss as early as possible, some children may not develop hearing loss until later in childhood. In those instances, parents, caregivers, or grandparents are often the first to notice. This means that, even if your baby has passed the hearing screening, you should still continue to look for signs that your baby is hearing well.

For example, during the first year, notice whether your baby reacts to loud noises, imitates sounds, and begins to respond to his or her name. When your child is age 2, ask yourself whether he or she makes playful sounds with his or her voice, imitates simple words, and enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake. Is he or she using two-word sentences to talk about and ask for things? When your child is age 3, notice whether he or she begins to understand “not now” and “no more” and follows simple directions. The NIDCD fact sheet Your Baby’s Hearing and Communicative Development Checklist is a handy reference for children from birth to 5 years of age. If for any reason you think your child is not hearing well, talk to your doctor.

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