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Hearing develops early in fetal development and is fully functioning at birth. While children respond differently at different stages of growth and development, hearing problems may be suspected in children who are not responding to sounds or who are not developing their language skills appropriately. The following are some age-related guidelines that may help to decide if your child is experiencing hearing problems.

It is important to remember that not every child is the same, and children reach milestones at different ages. Consult your child's physician if you are suspicious that your child is not hearing appropriately. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and other experts list the age-appropriate hearing milestones below for babies and toddlers:

Milestones related to hearing:

Birth to 3 months
  • reacts to loud sounds with startle reflex
  • is soothed and quieted by soft sounds
  • turns head to you when you speak
  • is awakened by loud voices and sounds
  • smiles in response to voices when spoken to
  • seems to know your voice and quiets down if crying
3 to 6 months
  • looks or turns toward a new sound
  • responds to "no" and changes in tone of voice
  • imitates his/her own voice
  • enjoys rattles and other toys that make sounds
  • begins to repeat sounds (such as ooh, aah, and ba-ba)
  • becomes scared by a loud voice or noise
6 to 10 months
  • responds to his/her own name, telephone ringing, someone's voice, even when not loud
  • knows words for common things (cup, shoe) and sayings ("bye-bye")
  • makes babbling sounds, even when alone
  • starts to respond to requests such as "come here"
  • looks at things or pictures when someone talks about them
10 to 15 months
  • plays with own voice, enjoying the sound and feel of it
  • points to or looks at familiar objects or people when asked to do so
  • imitates simple words and sounds; may use a few single words meaningfully
  • enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • follows one-step commands when shown by a gesture
15 to 18 months
  • follows simple directions, such as "give me the ball" without being shown
  • uses words he/she has learned often
  • uses two to three word sentences to talk about and ask for things
  • knows 10 to 20 words
  • points to some body parts when asked
18 to 24 months
  • understands simple "yes-no" questions (Are you hungry?)
  • understands simple phrases ("in the cup,""on the table")
  • enjoys being read to
  • points to pictures when asked
24 to 36 months
  • understands "not now" and "no more"
  • chooses things by size (big, little)
  • follows two-step commands, such as "get your shoes and come here"
  • understands many action words (run, jump)