Hearing Problems in Children & Babies | Kids Clinic Singapore


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(Last updated: 17 Jul)

Baby & Children Hearing Development

The following information has been prepared to help you monitor behavioural responses of your child’s hearing ability. The checklist indicates behaviours that are age appropriate for the detection of hearing loss. In addition, a list of what you can do to help your child learn to speak and to use his/her hearing is also included.


If your child fails to respond as the checklist suggests, there may be problems that require further evaluation. You may wish to discuss this with your child’s paediatrician, who will then refer you to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) Specialist, as well as an Audiologist for further investigation.

Baby Listening to Some Music
At 3 to 6 months, your baby should be able to react to loud sounds and react to the direction of a sound source.

Checklist for Speech and Hearing

  • 3 – 6 months: Your child should awaken or quieten to the sound of your voice. He/She will typically turn his/her eyes towards the direction of the sound source. Your child should also be able to react to loud sounds, begin to repeat sounds e.g. ahh and imitate his/her own voice.
  • 7 – 10 months: Your child should be able to turn his/her head and shoulders towards familiar sounds, even when he/she cannot see what is happening. Sounds do not have to be loud to cause him/her to respond. Your child should also be able to respond to his/her own name, start to respond to requests such as ‘come here’ and look at things and pictures when someone talks about them.
  • 11 – 15 months: Your child should show understanding of some words by appropriate behaviour. For example, he/she should be able to point to or look at familiar objects on request. He/She may jabber in response to a voice, and may cry when there is loud thunder or may frown when being scolded.
  • 18 months: Some children begin to identify parts of the body. They should be able to point to their eyes or nose on request. They should be using a few words, such as ‘bye-bye’. The words may not be complete or pronounced perfectly, but are clearly meaningful. The child should also be able to respond to simple yes-no questions.
  • 2 years: Your child should be able to follow a few simple commands without visual cues. He/She should be using a variety of everyday words heard at home. Children of this age enjoy being read to and shown simple pictures in a book, and will point them out when asked. Your child’s knowledge of action words should also increase by this stage.
  • 2½ years: Your child should be able to recite or sing short rhymes or songs and enjoy listening to tapes or watching cartoons. If your child has good hearing, these songs would make them happy, and he/she would usually react to the sound by running to look at or by telling someone what they hear.
  • 3 years: Your child should be able to understand and use some simple verbs (such as ‘go’), prepositions (such as ‘in’ or ‘on’), adjectives (such as ‘big’/’small’) and pronouns (such as ‘I’/’you’). He/She should be able to locate the source of the sound and be able to use complete sentences some of the time.
  • 4 years: Your child should be able to give connected accounts of a recent experience or event. He/She should be able to carry out a sequence of two simple directions (such as ‘Take the ball and give it to mummy’).
  • 5 years: Your child’s speech should be understandable, even though at times they may be mispronounced. Most children by this age can carry on a conversation, if the vocabulary is within their experience.

Tips to Encourage Your Child to Speak and Hear Better

4 months
  • Imitate all the sounds your child makes.
  • Talk to your child using a pleasant tone of voice.
  • Begin the sentence with your child’s name to get his attention when giving out instructions. (E.g. “Hello Johnny – where’s mommy’s little baby?”).

7 months

  • Keep on imitating your child’s babbling sounds and talk to him/her a lot.
  • Hold your child close to you and sing or talk repeatedly.
  • Talk about toys and play games such as “peek-a-boo”.

9 months

  • Make simple speech sounds to see if your child will imitate you (e.g. “gah-gah”).
  • Respond to him/her when your child calls out to you.
  • Play singing games.

12 months

  • Show your child parts of the body (e.g. “Here’s your nose” and place his hand on it).
  • Show him/her simple picture books and talk about the pictures.
  • Play “Where’s daddy?” and point to daddy.
  • Explain sounds (e.g. “What does a doggy say?” – then vocalize ‘bow-wow’).

24 months

  • Read simple books to your child and ask questions like “Where’s the cow?” and point out the pictures.
  • Ask him/her to put or take things away (e.g. “Give daddy the truck”).
  • Talk about everything he plays or sees.

Possible Signs that Your Child has a Hearing Problem (Above 5 Years)

  • Has speech delay or deteriorating speech.
  • Continually asks to repeat what was said.
  • Misunderstands and often gives inappropriate responses to questions.
  • Does not hear background noise.
  • Likes the television to be tuned up.
  • Hates sudden loud noise.
  • Watches your face for visual cues.
  • Forgets instructions and seems to daydream.
  • Either shouts or whispers (as he/she is unable to monitor own voice levels).
  • Has poor concentration.
  • Appears slower than other children.
  • Has balance problems (appears clumsy).
  • Complains of ringing/hissing/buzzing noises in the ears.
  • Has a problem with following conversations when two or more people are talking at the same time
Consult your child’s paediatrician, who may then refer him/her for further audiological evaluation by an ENT Specialist and Audiologist, should you have any concerns with regards to your child’s hearing ability.
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