The ability to hear is paramount to a child's learning foundation. Without it, speech is then also compromised. While it can be difficult to determine the health of your infant's hearing, there are some things to look out for in the first year of life.
A newborn to three months of age should demonstrate a startle reflex if there is a sudden loud noise. They should also show a response to music playing or the television on. Some babies are very sound sleepers, but most will waken to sounds coming from another room. They should also be responding to the sound of their parents' voices. By 2-3 months of age, they should be trying to mimic speech, making cooing noises and vowel sounds. They should also be showing signs of recognizing familiar voices and becoming quiet when they hear them.
Infants 4-8 Months Of Age
At this age, your baby should be turning their head to determine where sounds are coming from. Their facial expressions should change in acknowledgement of a noise or someone speaking to them. Playing with a rattle or other noisemaker should interest them, but if they are hearing impaired, they won't show much interest in these kinds of activities. A baby who only seems to notice vibrating noises but no other sounds may have an issue with their hearing. At this age, a baby should be very vocal, constantly babbling and trying to imitate conversation when someone talks to them. They should also be responding to tone of voice, such as being told "No!" sharply or if his siblings are screaming or arguing with one another.
Infants 9-12 Months of Age
By this age, your baby should be saying simple words like Mama, Dada, and Baba. They should also being attempting to say other words that use consonant sounds. They should recognize their own name when called and turn to the speaker. While they may not yet say bye-bye or the name of your dog or their siblings, they should know what these words mean or who the words are referring to. The baby's tone and pitch should vary. They should also show signs of learning their body parts, such as their toes or nose. Television programs geared at infants and toddlers should catch their attention. They should also shows signs of dancing or moving to music.
If at any time during this first year of life, you feel like your child is not reaching these milestones, be sure to contact your pediatrician right away. Even uncorrected moderate hearing loss in only one ear can significantly affect a child's speech development.