Babies can detect sounds as well as adults by the time they are born, although more complex processing of sound does not mature fully until they are teenagers.
Most babies born in Australia undergo neonatal hearing screening before discharge from hospital. Some will need to have routine reviews and others will need more in-depth tests if abnormalities on the screening results are found or if there are risk factors for developing a hearing loss later on in life.
Please see our Risk Factors section for more information.
Without formal hearing testing, it can be difficult to know what babies can hear because they do not respond to the softest sounds they detect. The first few months are a busy time of developing responses to sounds and interactions with the world. It can be helpful to know what’s expected:
- Babies respond best to nearby sounds, but the responses may be as subtle as eye-widening or stopping sucking, rather than obvious head turns which develop after a few months.
- Babies and young children will react to voices at softer levels than to other noises. They are most likely to respond to familiar voices.
- Babies react to soft sounds more while they are close to sleep or sleeping lightly rather than when they are alert and active.
- Babies stop responding to repeated sounds quickly. They may only react once or twice before getting bored.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s hearing, please contact us for an assessment or information.
Common audiological tests in this age group are:
- Behavioural Observation Audiometry
- High Frequency Tympanometry
- Otoacoustic Emissions
- Auditory Brainstem Response