Hearing loss: The early signs

The National Institutes of Health recommended in 1993 that all babies undergo hearing tests within the first three months of life. Since then, 20 states have passed laws encouraging the tests and 12 states require that babies be tested.

An estimated 30 U.S. newborns go home each day from the hospital with significant hearing impairment. For these infants, hearing loss will take an average of two and a half years to be discovered. By then, the children's brains will have developed largely without the influence of words.

Early signs of hearing trouble can be detected by observing a baby's behavior.

If your baby does not exhibit the following behavior, talk to your doctor:

Birth to three months: Reacts to loud sounds; Is soothed by your voice; Turns head to you when you speak; Is awakened by loud voices and sounds; Smiles when spoken to; Seems to know your voice and quiets down if crying.

Three to six months: Looks upward or turns toward a new sound; Responds to "no" and to changes in tone of voice; Imitates his/her own voice; Enjoys rattles and other toys that make noise; Begins to repeat sounds (such as ooh, aah, and ba-ba); Becomes scared by a loud voice.

For a complete hearing checklist for children up to age three, call 800.829.5934.

Robert Davis, "The cries grow louder: Check newborn's hearing" USA Today, May 24, 1999, 10D

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