Baby Development: Hearing. What can my baby hear when they're in the womb? How much can a newborn hear - month by month. How can help with my baby's hearing development?
Babies can actually
pick up a few sounds and noises while still in the womb, and are born with
almost fully developed hearing. It doesn’t take long for their hearing to
develop further after birth either. What might take them a little longer is
working out the information that they pick up through hearing and what to do
It’s exciting to watch
your baby respond to new sounds, especially different types of music and
watching as they process the sounds they’re hearing for the first time.
What can my baby hear when they’re in the womb?
Research has shown
that babies can start to detect sounds while in the womb from quite an early
stage during pregnancy. Their facial features are some the earliest things to
develop, including their ears.
stages of what your baby can hear while in the womb include:
9 Weeks Pregnant- Indentations
develop on the sides of your baby’s head, where their ears will be
18 Weeks Pregnant - Your baby
will start to detect muffled sounds
24 Weeks Pregnant - Your baby’s
ears are almost fully developed and they are more sensitive to sounds
26 Weeks Pregnant - You will
notice your baby becomes more responsive to sounds and in particular your voice
The most sound your
baby will hear are the ones you don’t even pick up on yourself - the sounds of
your body like your heartbeat and your lungs moving. By the time you reach your
third trimester, your voice will be the most significant sound your baby
detects and research has also shown that baby’s in the womb recognize and
respond physically to the sound of their mother - including an increased heart
rate and kicking!
What can my baby hear when they’re newborn?
Your baby’s hearing is
almost fully developed at birth, and it’s through the sense of hearing that
they’ll start to take in lots of information about their surroundings and home
environment. You’ll probably notice that they are particularly responsive to
your voice and react to loud noises - much like anyone else would!
Through listening and
hearing, your baby’s brain development will also develop as they start to learn
about the noises they hear around them and learn to make sense of what the
0-2 months old- High pitched
noises are particularly noticeable for your baby as their ears tend to be more
sensitive to these types of noises as a result of being in the womb and hearing
only deeper, muffled sounds.
3-4 months old - your baby will
be more responsive to identifiable sounds such as your voice, nursery tunes,
and other household noises such as the vacuum cleaner!
5-6 months old - your baby will
have a more developed sense of where noises come from, they will look at you
when they hear your voice and can usually identify their own name at this stage
too. Try calling their name when they aren’t looking at you, or speaking about
them, and watch as they turn to look at you.
Although your baby’s
hearing develops when they are quite young, it’s important to have regular
check ups as they grow and develop to ensure there are no underlying problems
that need addressing. You doctor and midwife will arrange this, and many
children also receive basic hearing tests once they start school.
What can I do to support my baby’s hearing development?
There are many things
you can do to support your baby’s hearing development, and help them to start
to develop an understanding of different noises and sounds. These include:
Singing nursery rhymes to them -
the sound of your voice is one of the most noticeable sounds for your baby and
nursery rhymes are particularly greatwith babies and children in mind because of the sounds they incorporate.
Play different types of music -
don’t feel restricted to just children’s songs or rhymes - all different music
can help your baby’s hearing develop as they take in new sounds, instruments
Introduce new sounds- as they
grow and develop, try introducing new sounds to their environment to spark
their interest - these can be anything musical baby toys to something as simple
as homemade wind chimes made out of different materials. All these sounds will
interest and amuse your baby, and aid their hearing and brain development.
Read to your baby - again, the
sound of your voice is very enticing for your baby and reading to them at any
age will always help their development. Try using different voices and changing
your tone and pitch to see how your baby responds and reacts to the changes in
your voice. Learn more on the benefits of reading to your baby, here.
It’s through listening
and watching you speak that your baby will first start to learn how to put
sounds together. At around the 5 to 6 month mark, you will probably notice your
baby paying more attention to your lips and mouth movements and trying to
imitate easier sounds such as ‘m’ and ‘b’ sounding words.
When should I be concerned about my baby’s hearing development?
Your baby’s ability to
hear is closely linked to other areas of your baby’s brain development, and
their ability to learn new information, so it’s important that any problems are
Many babies have the
ability to sleep quite happily through noise, and this is perfectly normal and
not a sign of any underlying problem - babies need their sleep for their growth
and further development. But some babies will experience a hearing impairment
and there are a number of factors that can contribute towards this including:
If your baby
was born prematurely
If they had
a disruption to their flow of oxygen during the birthing process
experienced severe infections as a newborn
If there is
a history of hearing loss/impairment in the family
As mentioned earlier,
all babies are given a simple hearing test as newborns, to check key hearing
ability. As your baby grows it’s useful to know what signs to look out for so
you can ensure your baby is re-tested if needed. Warning signs to look out for
Newborn - 3 months - If your
baby does not startle or jump at loud unexpected noises when they are awake
3-4 months - if your baby shows
no engagement with sounds or noises
5-6 months -if your baby does
not respond to your voice, seem to recognise your voice or respond to their
name when called
6-8 months - if your baby does
not attempt to make babbling noises and ‘speak’ in response to you talking to
Generally, you are
looking out for alertness and engagement from your baby with their surroundings
and you. Identifying these problems early on makes a big difference in
supporting other areas of your baby’s development, in particular around speech
and learning language.
If you are concerned
at all around your baby’s hearing development, speak with your doctor or
midwife who can conduct further testing and make sure the necessary support is
put in place.
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