How to detect hearing loss in babies and children

Detecting hearing loss at an early age is crucial to minimise the impact on language and speech development

These simple tell-tale signs will show you that a child’s hearing is developing at an expected rate. If they don’t show these signs or respond to sounds differently, a hearing test is recommended.

Birth to 8 weeks

They’re startled by sudden noises from three to six feet away.

Three months

The settled baby quietens or smiles at the sound of their parent’s voice.

Six to 12 months

They turn their head toward familiar voices and sounds, and are responsive to close, quiet noises.

12 to 18 months

The baby knows and will immediately respond to their own name.

18 months to two years

They can use a number of singular words, other than those like “mama” and “dada”, and can understand simple instructions.

2 ½ to 3 ½ years

The child speaks clearly using groups of words, follows simple commands without visual cues and repeats phrases.
Be aware that hearing difficulties can be confused with behavioural problems in older children. This can include constant inattentiveness, below average school performance and frequent colds and ear aches. Keep an eye out for these signs too.

Next steps

If you’re concerned about a child’s hearing then further action should be taken. This can include performing a more in-depth hearing test, checking for possible infection or referring them to a specialist, such as an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.