Home > Babies and Toddlers > Health and Safety > Baby and Toddler Health Issues > Hearing Problem Suspected in Infant

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Hearing Problem Suspected in Infant

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: Our 14-week-old daughter is developing quickly in all areas except hearing. It seems she can hear us cough and sneeze, but when we call her name or talk to her, she doesn't seem to respond. Should we get her hearing checked? What type of tests will the doctor run on her to determine if she has a problem?

A: You should definitely have your daughter's hearing tested if you have any concerns that she's not developing normally. While it's likely that her hearing is fine, if she does have hearing loss you'll want to know about it as soon as possible. In some states, hearing is tested in all newborns before they leave the hospital, and a recommendation has been made for it to happen in all states over the next few years.

Congenital (something you're born with) hearing impairment occurs in about 0.3 percent of all children. For many children, their hearing loss is not detected until 14 months or older, when they fail to begin speaking. There are signs, however, to look for before children reach that age. Young infants should respond to loud sounds in a room. By 4 to 6 months, infants should turn toward a voice: If your baby is in her crib and you stand at the door where she can't see you and start talking, she should quiet down for a second, and then turn in the direction of the voice to try to localize it. Somewhere between 3 and 8 months, infants should imitate speech sounds; they don't make words but do imitate tone and, eventually, syllables.

When there is a concern about possible hearing impairment, the type of hearing test will depend on the age of the child. In older children who are cooperative (ages 3 and up), the standard headphone test is used: the child raises her hand or presses a button when she hears the sound. For younger children (12 months to 3 years), a variation of this is used: In a specially-designed room sounds are played from different corners and at varying decibel and frequency levels, and the child's response to them is noted. This test does not test each ear independently, however, and it wouldn't necessarily pick up a child who has a hearing impairment in just one ear. In infants (and uncooperative older children), hearing can be tested using auditory brainstem (area of the brain that helps us to hear) responses. In this more sophisticated test, electrodes are taped on the back of the head, similar to what happens for an EEG (brainwave test), and different levels of sound are transmitted to the baby's ear. The electrodes record the brainwave activity that occurs in response to the sound, and thus tells whether or not the sound was heard.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


10 Best Creative Apps for Kids
Looking for apps that foster creativity? Check out these top-rated art and music apps for kids.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

A New Intergalactic Reading Adventure!
Get your reluctant reader hooked on an irresistible new story, Galactic Hot Dogs! Join the Book 1 reading marathon, and get behind-the-scenes tidbits on the official Galactic Hot Dogs blog. Also, print this cool Galactic Hot Dogs reading log to keep your bookworm excited about reading!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks