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October 01, 2016

Children’s Hearing Milestones

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

A child’s hearing can be tested at any age and as early as a few hours after being born. In the U.S. it is estimated that 12,000 children are born each year with a hearing loss. Children also need to be screened regularly for hearing loss because it can occur any time for varied reasons. Undetected hearing loss in young children may cause difficulties in communication and learning. 

Parents, caregivers, and child advocates can ask that a child’s hearing be checked whenever there is a concern. If a child is not demonstrating typical hearing milestones evaluations done by audiologists can help identify if there is hearing loss. Early diagnosis and intervention can help with language, listening and speech.

The following hearing milestones were developed by the John Tracy Clinic, a nonprofit in Los Angeles, CA providing parent-centered services to young children with hearing loss.

0-3 months:

Recognizes parent’s voice. Reacts to loud sounds. Wakes slightly to nearby conversations. Smiles when spoken to.

By 6 months:

Responds to changing voice tones. Reacts to noisy toys. Begins looking for sound sources. Uses many speech-like sounds while babbling.

By 9 months:

Responds to simple requests. Locates the direction of sounds. Reacts to own name. Babbles different length sounds.

By 12 months:

Understands a variety of words. Imitates some speech sounds. Enjoys games such as peek-a-boo. Says first word(s).

By 18 months:

Follows simple directions. Enjoys being read to. Points to some body parts. Uses more than six words.

By 2 years:

Responds to yes/no questions. Understands meaning of many words. Points to pictures on request. Uses two word phrases.

By 3 years:

Understand many action words. Recognizes familiar melodies. Uses three-word sentences. Speaks clearly enough for family to understand.

By 4 years:

Follows two-step directions. Responds when called from another room. Uses sentences of four or more words. Speaks clearly enough for non-family to understand most of the time.

By 5 years:

Responds to varied questions. Sings full songs and includes actions. Has a growing vocabulary. Uses detailed sentences.

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