Infants and toddlers take in massive amounts of sound every single day, and it is from this sound that they begin to identify and distinguish the world around them.
Hearing, of course, helps babies to first distinguish the different people in their life and to identify the safety of their surroundings. Hearing also helps babies start to identify the language that they will eventually us to communicate in their daily lives.
EARLY HEARING DEVELOPMENT
Audiologie Centre West experts tell us that the fetal inner ear has already fully developed within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy—so roughly by the 7th month. That means babies are born, typically, with fully developed hearing. Obviously this is why babies rely so greatly on the sounds around them to help them learn about their surroundings.
It also explains why babies are so sensitive to sudden loud or unexpected noises.
After birth, it takes about 2 months for a baby to start recognizing familiar voices. At this point, they will quiet their crying, for example, and form sounds like the “Oh” (long O) vowel when they do recognize a voice. At the same time, a baby might not respond at all when you talk to them or read to them but that doesn’t mean they are not listening—they are just comfortable with your voice and still trying to learn more about their environment.
MIDDLE HEARING DEVELOPMENT
By the fourth month babies will start to look for the source of sounds they recognize or are trying to distinguish. By month number 8, most babies should already be “speaking” (its more like babbling or “baby talk”) but they can also recognize—and respond to—changes in your tone of voice. Typically within the first year, a baby can say simple words (usually “ma-ma” or “da-da” or “pa-pa” or “ball,” something like that) and will respond when you call their name.
CONTINUED HEARING DEVELOPMENT
Obviously, healthy hearing helps speech development so parents should protect their baby’s hearing, even within the first year. Be sure to clean out the air canal (often using cotton swabs), obviously. Be sure to check for ear infections on your new baby doctor appointments. It is also important to protect your baby’s still developing senses from loud and prolonged noises. Finally, continue to introduce your baby to sounds like music and words (by reading them books).