About 12,000 babies born in the United States each year have some hearing impairment, says the March of Dimes. And while most newborns have their hearing tested before leaving the hospital, impairment isn't always obvious or present from birth. You need no special equipment or skills to detect whether your baby has hearing issues. Paying close attention to his behavior will tell you if you need to call the pediatrician.
Long before he's able to talk, a baby with normal hearing will respond to the voices and noises around him. When he's awake, a typical newborn will startle at sudden noises, such as a dog barking or phone ringing. By 3 months old, he'll respond to a parent's voice, says the KidsHealth website, and by the time he's 6 months old he should turn his head to try to find the source of nearby noises. Stand behind him and say his name to see if he turns because of the sound and not just because he sees you. Failure to meet these milestones may be an early sign of hearing loss.
Six Months to 1 Year
In the second half of his first year, listen for your baby to start finding his voice. He should babble, try to imitate sounds and possibly say his first word by the age of 1 year old. Some babies are simply late talkers, so don't assume that a baby who hasn't said "Mama" by his first birthday has hearing loss. However, failing to show interest in musical toys by 8 months old, notes New York University's Langone Medical Center, may indicate a hearing problem.
One Year to 18 Months
Speech delays are a sign of potential hearing loss in older infants. Failing to say his first word by 18 months old and failing to follow simple directions — such as "Come to Mama" — are causes for concern, notes the March of Dimes. The typical baby won't respond to every verbal command, as he's easily distracted. However, if he only responds to directions that you can act out physically, such as motioning for him to come to you, hearing trouble could be the reason.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), genetics are responsible for hearing loss in 50 percent or more of affected babies, and another 25 percent of cases have unknown causes. In the remaining cases, certain illnesses and conditions can contribute to an infant's hearing loss. Premature birth, childbirth complications and frequent ear infections are all linked to hearing loss, says KidsHealth. The CDC notes that if your baby stayed five days or longer in the neonatal intensive care unit after birth, has a neurological disorder or has suffered a head injury severe enough to require hospitalization, he may also be at risk for hearing loss.
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