Baby's First Year · Parenting

Have you heard? Hearing is key to communication!

Baby's ear

Did you know that audiologists are key members of the speech and communication team? That’s because hearing is a critical part of your baby’s health and development! Before they can say sounds and words, babies need to hear those sounds and words to learn what they mean. An undetected hearing loss can impact their development of spoken language, social skills, reading/writing and success in school.

How do I know if my baby can hear?

Many people think of hearing like a light switch – it is either working (on) or not working (off). But there is a wide range of hearing ability – more like a set of dimmer switches that can affect different sound volumes (loud/soft) and frequencies (high/low pitch).

Sometimes, you may notice your child is having difficulty hearing. For example, they may not startle when there is a loud *BANG*; they may sleep through loud noises; or they may not look towards the phone when it rings. Any of these red flags would give you a clear signal that a hearing test is needed.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to tell if your child is having difficulty hearing just by watching how they behave and respond to sounds – especially if a hearing loss is mild or only affecting one ear. Babies with mild hearing loss or hearing loss in only one ear will likely respond to many sounds in the environment – including voices – but they may still have difficulty with speech and language learning.

The only way to know if your child has a permanent hearing loss is by having their hearing tested.

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends hearing tests for any babies and toddlers who:

  • Did not get a hearing screen as a newborn;
  • Are not meeting communication milestones;
  • Do not react to loud noises; or
  • Have problems with ear health (e.g. frequent ear infections).

How do I get a hearing test for my child?

In Ontario, all newborn babies are offered a hearing screening to make sure they can hear sounds and speech, as well as a blood test to check for risk factors of permanent hearing loss. If your baby is less than two months old and has not received a hearing screening yet, contact your local Infant Hearing Program to book an appointment – earlier is best!

If your child is more than two months old, and you have concerns about their hearing, ask your child’s doctor for a referral to an audiologist or find a registered audiologist in your community through the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario.

Early intervention is key to help children with permanent hearing loss develop their communication skills.

If your child has been identified with a permanent hearing loss – don’t wait and see! Reach out to Early Abilities at 416-338-8255 or email earlyabilities@toronto.ca for support and information about early intervention services.

To get tips and information on supporting your baby’s early language development skills from birth to 6 months, text BabyTalkTO to 393939.

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