Health A-Z

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Hearing loss can show up at any age. It is often difficult to detect, especially in young children.

Following are typical developmental milestones in children with normal hearing. Babies and young children with hearing loss may not achieve these milestones:

  • 0 to 3 months The child blinks, startles, moves with loud noises, and quiets down at the sound of the parent's voice.

  • 4 to 6 months The child turns his or her head to the side toward voices or other noises, and makes musical sounds ("ooh," "ah"). The child appears to listen and then responds as if having a conversation.

  • 7 to 12 months The child turns his or her head in any direction toward sounds, babbles ("ba," "ga," "bababa," "lalala," etc.), and says "mama," "dada" (though not specific to mom or dad).

  • 13 to 15 months The child points; uses "mama," "dada" correctly, and follows one-step commands.

  • 16 to 18 months The child uses single words.

  • 19 to 24 months The child points to body parts when asked, puts two words together ("want cookie," "no bed"). Half of the child's words are understood by strangers.

  • 25 to 36 months The child uses three- to five-word sentences. Three-quarters of the child's words are understood by strangers.

  • 37 to 48 months Almost all of the child's speech is understood by strangers.

Indications of hearing loss in older children can include:

  • Listening to the television or radio at a higher volume than other children

  • Sitting especially close to the television when the volume is adequate for others in the room

  • Asking to have things repeated

  • Having difficulty with school work

  • Having speech and language problems

  • Exhibiting poor behavior

  • Being inattentive

  • Complaining of difficulty hearing or blocked ears

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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