Hearing is important for a child’s development. Children identified of having hearing difficulties at an early age are at risk of having speech and language delay in the future.
Despite public’s knowledge on the importance of hearing in children, the awareness and attention of parents on their children’s hearing abilities remain low. Parents tend to pay more attention to the physical development of their children. In addition, most parents believe that their children’s hearing is less important and could be difficult to perform at a very young age. Some parents assume that the speech and language delay are common thus less attention is given to their hearing issues.
Age 0 – 1 months
Parents play a vital role to ensure hearing development of their children. A newborn should be able to hear and learn her parent’s voices and environmental sounds around her. Therefore, it is important to test the babies hearing status right after birth. At the age of up to 1 month old, babies have started to hear and respond to loud sounds. These responses could be observed through changes in activities such as crying, eyes blinking, cessation from feeding or arousal from sleep. Parents could test their children’s hearing on their own by giving moderate to loud sounds such as hand claps or voices near their ear levels to observe spontaneous reactions.
Age 3 – 6 months
At the age of 3 to 6 months old, babies are able to lie prone and lift their heads up and down. At this time, a response could be observed by a head movement to the sound source. During this age, the neck muscles could not fully support right and left head movements. It could only be achieved when the babies reach 6 months old. Parents could easily monitor their children’s hearing through their spontaneous reactions to sounds. Observe your child’s head movement towards sounds around them. Use any sound source such as a voice, a bunch of keys, a toy or a bell. The test can be done without giving any visual cues to the babies. Nevertheless, babies will not give any reactions to sounds when they have hearing difficulties.
Age 8 months
Speech development is usually influenced by hearing. At approximately 8 months old, babies should be able to produce babbling sounds such as “boo boo”, “paa paa” or “maa maa”. They could also smile during interactions and understand emotions such as anger, joy or other voice tones. At this level, hearing status could be observed from social and a two-way communications between parents and children. Children who are still not able to babble or produce sounds and unable to understand this interaction could have a high possibility of hearing problem.
Age 1 year
You will be able to learn simple steps in testing hearing as the child grows up. At 1 year old, the toddlers could understand simple instructions and able to imitate your voice and speech. At this time, you could play with voice through games such as ‘peekaboo’ that engages hearing, speech and turn-taking element in the activity. If you identify that your children are not able to understand the turn-taking process in the play, there is also a possibility of hearing problem.
Age 1 year and 6 months
At 18 months, children speech development can already be observed. Your child should be able to utter at least 5 words, referring to the names of their close family members. Your child could also request their needs using simple words. If your child is not able to produce any meaningful word at this age, there is an indication of hearing difficulty although you do not suspect your child is having any hearing problem during your observation at home.
The hearing test should be continued although your child has gained their speech and going to school. Hearing problem is still possible at a later age without parents’ knowledge. Monitoring children development including their learning in school could assist us in identifying any problem earlier. This is imperative so that treatment could be done as soon as possible without interrupting their learning and communication skills.
Please remember that any simple hearing test at home aims to only screen their alertness level towards sounds. If you suspect that your child is suffering from a hearing problem, please seek advice from an audiologist at your nearest hospital to arrange for a comprehensive hearing assessment.
|Last Reviewed||:||10 October 2016|
|Writer||:||Kamarul Akmal b. Ishak|
|Translator||:||Sharifah Zainon bt. S. Mohd Khan|
|Accreditor||:||Siti Suriani bt. Che Hussin|