Infant Hearing and Speech Development

By Alaa Ramadan, MD, PGY2
Baylor College of Medicine

As a parent, you are eager to know what your baby’s first word will be. But did you know significant hearing loss is present in one to six per 1,000 newborns?

Newborn and infant hearing tests identify most children with hearing impairment. But many may not become evident until later in childhood. Hearing loss is not always present at birth.

In this blog, we will explore other causes for hearing impairment in children.  

Hearing is essential for language development. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s hearing, speak up!  Let your child’s pediatrician know and they will guide you through further investigation, testing and resources.

First, you should be aware of possible indicators for hearing loss. If any of these apply to your child, bring it up with your pediatrician during an upcoming visit.

  • Family history of hearing loss
  • History of infection during pregnancy
  • Birth weight less than 3.5 pounds
  • Ear or other facial anomalies
  • Severe jaundice requiring transfusion
  • Meningitis
  • Exposure to medications toxic to hearing during pregnancy
  • Any concerns regarding developmental delay
  • Recurrent or persistent ear infections
  • Inattentiveness or trouble focusing in school
  • Poor social interaction

Next, let’s clear up some misconceptions you may have heard about a child’s speech development – all circumstances that may indicate speech or hearing problems.

MYTH: “He is not talking much because he is learning two languages at once.”
FACT: Living in a bilingual home should not hinder your child’s speech development.

MYTH: “He’s a boy, and boys take longer to talk.”
FACT: During the first few years of life, boys and girls actually develop at a similar rate.

MYTH: “She doesn’t talk, but she understands everything I say.”
FACT: Both receptive and expressive communications are important developmental skills.

MYTH: “It’s OK as long as I understand what he is saying.”
FACT: By age 2, 50 percent of speech should be intelligible to strangers.

If you are concerned about your child’s hearing or speech, talk to your child’s doctor. There are developmental screening tools, referrals for further assessment through Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services offered by the state, medical evaluation by ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) physicians, audiologists (hearing specialists), or specific therapists like speech and language pathologists. They will guide you for further evaluation.

CHRISTUS Health has a team of outstanding pediatric ENT specialists, audiologists, and therapists who work together to give your child the best possible outcome when a child is hearing impaired or has difficulty communicating. Call 210.704.4708 for information or an appointment.