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How Will I Know if My Child Has Trouble Hearing?

My husband has had a hearing loss since he was a child. How will I know if our baby also has a hearing problem?
Tara

A family history of hearing loss does put a newborn at higher risk for having a hearing loss. But rest assured, your baby's hearing can be monitored closely so that if there is a problem, treatment can begin as soon as possible.

In most states, hospitals provide a newborn hearing screening before the baby is discharged. If a screening isn't done then, or the baby is born at home or a birthing center, it's important to get a newborn hearing screening within the first 3 weeks of life.

A baby who doesn't pass a hearing screening doesn't necessarily have a hearing loss. A retest to confirm the hearing loss should be done within the first 3 months of life, and if it does confirm a problem, doctors should start treatment by the time the child is 6 months old.

Even if your newborn passes the initial hearing screening, watch for signs that he or she is hearing well. Hearing milestones that should be reached in the first year of life include:

  • Most newborns startle or "jump" to sudden loud noises.
  • By 3 months, a baby usually recognizes a parent's voice.
  • By 6 months, an infant can usually turn his or her eyes or head toward a sound.
  • By 12 months, a child can usually imitate some sounds and produce a few words, such as "Mama" or "bye-bye."

A child may be at higher risk for hearing loss if he or she:

  • was born prematurely
  • stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
  • was given medications that can lead to hearing loss
  • had complications at birth
  • had frequent ear infections had infections such as meningitis or cytomegalovirus

Kids who seem to have normal hearing should continued to have their hearing evaluated on a regular basis at checkups throughout life. Hearing tests are usually done at ages 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, and 18 years, and at other times if there's a concern.

If you have any concerns about your baby's hearing, talk with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Robert C. O'Reilly, MD
Date reviewed: October 2009

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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