Signs of hearing loss in children

If you think your child has hearing loss there are certain things you should look for.

A young girl with a Cochlear implant draws with crayons

What you'll find on this page

  • The signs of hearing loss in children.
  • Typical speaking milestones for children.

The signs of hearing loss aren't always obvious. Here are some things to look for, plus a guide to hearing and speech development in young children.

"If we don’t tell her friends that she has cochlear implants, people do not realise it because she pronounces the words very well. She is very articulate."

- Mother of Grace T, Cochlear™ implant recipient

In most cases a child's hearing loss is picked up through testing soon after birth. Other times, it is more difficult to identify.

You may not know if your child has hearing loss — especially if they haven't started talking. That's why it's important to understand the signs and symptoms now, so you can be ready to take action.

Some possible signs of hearing loss in an infant or toddler

  • Does not react to loud sounds.

  • Does not seek out or detect where sound is coming from.

  • Has stopped babbling and experimenting with making sounds.

  • Still babbles but is not progressing to more understandable speech.

  • Doesn't react to voices, even when being held.

Ages and stages that children typically learn to listen and speak1

Knowing more about hearing and speech development milestones can be helpful. Use these guidelines to better understand your child’s progress:


Hearing and understanding

Speech and language

Birth to three months

  • Startles at loud sounds

  • Smiles when spoken to

  • Seems to recognise parent's voice and quietens if crying

  • Changes sucking behaviour in response to sound

  • Makes cooing sounds

  • Cries differently for different needs

  • Smiles when sees parent

4-6 months

  • Moves eyes in direction of sounds

  • Responds to changes in tone of your voice

  • Notices toys that make sounds

  • Pays attention to music

  • Babbling sounds are becoming more speech-like

  • Vocalises excitement and displeasure

  • Makes gurgling sounds when left alone and when playing with you

7 months-1 year

  • Enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake

  • Turns to look in the direction of sounds

  • Listens when spoken to

  • Recognises words for common items like "cup","shoe"

  • Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as "up-up"

  • Uses speech or non-crying sound to get and keep attention

  • Imitates different speech sounds

  • Has one or two words ("bye-bye", "dada", "mama"), although they may not be clear

1-2 years

  • Points to a few body parts when asked

  • Follows simple commands and understands simple questions

  • Listens to simple stories, songs and rhymes

  • Points to pictures in a book when named

  • Says more words every month

  • Uses one- to two-word questions ("where kitty?")

  • Puts two words together (“more cookie”)

  • Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words

Remember, some children with normal hearing may reach those milestones later. If you have any concerns you should speak to your child's health care professional as soon as possible.

Some possible signs of hearing loss in a school-aged child

  • Does not follow simple commands, such as "get your shoes" or understand simple directions.

  • Is easily frustrated or experiences communication breakdowns.

  • Is falling behind with speech and communication skills.

  • Relies on lip-reading.

  • Is exhausted at the end of school from concentrating to understand speech.

What to do if you think your child has hearing loss

The first step is to see your child’s doctor and let them know about your concerns. He or she may check your child’s ears and can recommend a course of action.

If traditional hearing aids can't help your child, they may benefit from other hearing solutions, such as cochlear implants and bone conduction implants.

Find a hearing implant specialist near you


Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always follow the directions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.

For a full list of Cochlear’s trademarks, please visit our Terms of Use page.

Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your health professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology


  1. Speech and Language Developmental Milestones [Internet]. NIDCD. 2018 [cited 13 September 2018]. Available from: