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If you're worried about your child's hearing

Your child will be offered routine hearing tests at birth and as they grow up.

But you can also use the childhood hearing checklist to check their:

  • hearing
  • speech
  • understanding

If you're worried, speak to your GP or public health nurse (PHN).

Childhood hearing checklist

The checklist says what most babies and children up to the age of 5 should be able to understand and respond to if they're hearing well.

Newborn to 3 months

Hearing and understanding

Your baby should:

  • be startled by loud sounds
  • quieten down or smile when spoken to
  • seem to recognise your voice
  • respond to your voice when they are crying
  • suck more or less in response to sound

Making sounds

Your baby should:

  • make pleasure sounds, such as cooing or gooing
  • cry differently for different needs

4 to 6 months

Hearing and understanding

Your baby should:

  • move their eyes in the direction of sounds
  • respond to changes in the tone of your voice
  • notice toys that make sounds
  • pay attention to music

Making sounds

Your baby should:

  • make lots of different babbling sounds, including p, b and m
  • chuckle and laugh
  • make sounds when they're excited or unhappy
  • make gurgling sounds when left alone or when playing with you

7 months to 1 year

Hearing and understanding

Your baby should:

  • enjoy games like peek-a-boo
  • turn and look in the direction of sounds
  • listen when people speak to them
  • recognise words for common items like cup, shoe, book or juice
  • start to respond to requests such as 'come here' or 'want more?'

Making sounds

Your baby should:

  • make babbling sounds using both long and short groups of sounds such as 'tata upup bibibibi'
  • use speech or non-crying sounds to get and keep your attention
  • use gestures to communicate, such as waving or holding up their arms to be picked up
  • imitate different speech sounds
  • have 1 or 2 words like hi, dog, dada or mama around their first birthday (although sounds may not be clear)

1 to 2 years

Hearing and understanding

Your child should be able to:

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

Talking

Your child should be able to:

  • say more words every month
  • ask some 2-word questions like 'where kitty?' or 'what's that?'
  • put 2 words together like 'no juice' or 'mummy book'
  • use different consonant sounds at the beginning of words

2 to 3 years

Hearing and understanding

Your child should be able to:

  • understand differences in meaning, for example between 'go' and 'stop'
  • follow 2 requests, such as 'get the book and put it on the table'
  • listen to and enjoy hearing stories for longer periods of time

Talking

Your child should be able to:

  • use a word for almost everything
  • use 2 or 3 words to talk about and ask for things
  • use k, g, f, t, d and n sounds
  • be understood most of the time by people who know them well
  • ask for things by naming them

3 to 4 years

Hearing and understanding

Your child should be able to:

  • hear you when you call from another room
  • hear television or radio at the same loudness as other family members
  • answer simple 'who', 'what' and 'why' questions

Talking

Your child should be able to:

  • talk about activities at school or at friends' homes
  • be understood by people outside of your family
  • use a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words

4 to 5 years

Hearing and understanding

Your child should be able to:

  • pay attention to a short story and answer simple questions about it
  • hear and understand most of what others say at home or school

Talking

Your child should be able to:

  • use sentences that give lots of details
  • tell stories that stick to the topic
  • communicate easily with other children and adults
  • say most sounds correctly, except a few like l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh and th
  • say rhyming words
  • name some letters and numbers
  • use the same grammar as the rest of your family

When to see your GP

Speak to your GP or public health nurse (PHN) if your child:

  • is not hearing well
  • has pain in their ears
  • has discharge coming from their ears

If necessary, they will refer your child for hearing tests at an audiology centre.

Find an audiology centre

Hearing tests and any help with hearing loss (such as hearing aids) are free for children up to the age of 18.

How to use the HSE audiology service

Tests for hearing loss in babies and children

This content is republished with permission from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

page last reviewed: 15/09/2022
next review due: 15/09/2025