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Your child's hearing

Your child's hearing develops over stages as they grow:

0 to 3 months

  • startle to loud sounds - they may blink or open their eyes wide
  • notice sudden prolonged noise like a vacuum cleaner - they may pause and listen when it is turned on
  • quieten or smile at the sound of your voice, even when they cannot see you

4 to 6 months

  • turn their head to follow sounds
  • move their eyes in direction of sounds
  • respond to changes in the tone of your voice
  • notice toys that make sounds

6 to 8 months

  • turn their head towards a parent or carer when they hear a familiar voice
  • turn towards and locate very quiet sounds if they are not distracted by something else

Around 9 months

  • be easily distracted by sounds if they are paying attention to something else
  • notice everyday sounds
  • make eye contact readily
  • try to maintain interaction with their parent or carer through eye contact and cooing or babbling
  • babble using a variety of sounds
  • respond to their own name
  • begin to respond to requests “come here” or “want more?”
  • use speech or non-crying sounds to get and keep attention

12 months to 2 years

  • follow simple commands and understand simple questions like "roll the ball", "kiss the baby" or "where is your shoe?"
  • point to a few parts of their body when asked
  • listen to simple stories, songs or rhymes
  • point to pictures in a book when named

2 to 5 years

  • understand differences in meaning (“go" or "stop”, “up" or "down”)
  • follow two requests (“get the book and put it on the table”)

3 to 4 years

  • hear you when you call from another room
  • answer simple “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, and “why?” questions

4 to 5 years

  • pay attention to a short story and answer simple questions about it
  • hear and understand most of what is said at home, in childcare and at school

Helping your child's communication development

When your child’s hearing is checked

Newborn babies have their hearing screened in the hospital. If your baby was born at home, your midwife will arrange the screening.

Newborn hearing screening

In junior infants class, a public health nurse (PHN) checks your child’s hearing. At this check, the nurse notes any concerns you recorded on the consent form that you have signed. The nurse will also test if your child can hear high and low pitched noises.

If you're worried about your child’s hearing

Non-urgent advice: Contact your PHN, GP, community medical doctor or local children’s audiology service if:

  • you are worried about your child's hearing

They may refer you to ear, nose and throat (ENT) services for more investigation and treatment.

Page last reviewed: 10 February 2023
Next review due: 10 February 2026