Check Her Hearing
Have your newborn's hearing checked ASAP, then stay attuned to signs of later loss.
All states have laws to help ensure hearing screening for all babies, although standards vary: many mandate it, but others simply require that parents be informed about screening. Some states (such as Ohio) pick up the cost, while others (like West Virginia) require insurers to do so. Be sure your baby receives the screening -- ask your OB if it'll be done at the hospital right after birth. If not, schedule it within a month.
Hospitals will use one or two tests, each no longer than 10 minutes. One test probes the ear for damage or blockage, and another measures brainwaves in response to sound. If you're advised to see an audiologist about a suspected problem, don't delay. "The brain develops fast in the first 12 to 18 months, and sensory input plays a big role," says Betty Vohr, MD, medical director of the Rhode Island Hearing Assessment Program. "If hearing isn't stimulated for a prolonged period, babies don't learn language." Addressing the problem by 6 months with, say, hearing aids helps keep language skills almost on par with those of peers.
Every well visit should include a hearing check, but you can also keep tabs by tallying baby's first words. She should babble or imitate voices by 12 months, use single words by 18 months, and say at least 10 words by 2 years, says Gordon Hughes, MD, program director of clinical trials for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
Of course, it's hard to track the word count of a rapidly growing vocabulary, so take notice if your child constantly uses the words "huh?" or "what?" Here are other red flags: "A child who studies your face for more information, sits close to the TV, or switches a phone back and forth between ears may be struggling to hear better," says Joy Peterson, manager of audiology at the Center for Childhood Communication at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.