Hearing plays a critical role in speech and language development. Because young children don't yet have the ability to verbalize when they are experiencing a problem with their hearing, it's important for parents to watch closely for milestones that let them know their child's hearing is allowing for proper development.
Here are three red flags to watch for as your child approaches his or her first birthday that could signal it's time to schedule an appointment with a pediatric audiologist.
1. Your child doesn't respond to his or her name.
While it can be difficult to get the attention of a young child, it should be obvious that your child has the ability to recognize and respond to his or her name. Although children develop language and speech skills at their own pace, a child with normal auditory function should be able to recognize his or her name by the time they reach 9 months of age.
If you are frequently using your child's name in conversation and making it a point to address your child by name, yet they still fail to respond when called, this could signal auditory problems that will need to be addressed by a medical professional.
2. Your child doesn't make eye contact when you speak to him or her.
When you engage in conversation with someone, it's natural for the other person to make eye contact with you in order to gather clues about the nature of the conversation. Young children should also make eye contact when you are talking directly to them, and failing to do so could signal a problem.
While there are some physiological issues that could prevent your child from making eye contact (like poor peripheral vision or poor eyesight in general), if these physiological factors have been ruled out, then your child may have auditory issues. Seeing a pediatric audiologist will allow you to determine how to best help your child reach the important eye-contact milestone.
3. Your child isn't verbalizing words.
Language is learned by hearing the sounds that make up words and repeating these sounds. If a child has auditory problems that interfere with his or her ability to hear you speak, these problems may manifest themselves as delayed speech.
Experts believe that children build the foundations of language within the first two years of life. Children as young as a few months old make cooing sounds, and by six months simple words can be formed. If your child is not engaging in verbalizing words, see a pediatric audiologist for help.
Knowing when your child might need the help of a pediatric audiologist will help you be more aware of the red flag that could signal an auditory problem in your child's future. For more information, contact local professionals like Mark Montgomery MD FACS.