Signs of hearing loss in children

Do you think your child may have hearing loss? Here are the signs to look out for.

A young girl with a Cochlear implant draws with crayons

What you'll find on this page

  • Discover the signs of hearing loss in children
  • Understand key milestones for learning to listen and speak
  • Learn what to do if your child has hearing loss

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

“The day care mom would say, ‘I don’t know if she can hear me.’ Then my husband and I started watching for signs. We thought, maybe she has a little hearing deficit. We went to many doctors and also ENTs who basically either said, ‘It’s water,’ ‘It’s behavior’ or ‘Lots of kids don’t talk until later.’”

- Parents of Abigail M. - Nucleus® recipient

As Abigail's parents found, you may not know if your child has hearing loss – especially if they haven’t started talking yet. That's why it's important to understand the signs and symptoms now, so you can be prepared to take action if needed.

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 moving to more understandable speech
  • Does not react to voices, even when being held
  • Ear is missing or malformed at birth

Ages and stages that children typically learn to listen and speak1

Understanding 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

  • Quiets or smiles when spoken to

  • Seems to recognize a caregiver's voice and quiets if crying

  • Changes sucking behavior 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

  • Vocalizes 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

  • Recognizes 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

  • Begins to respond to requests ("Come here," "Want more?")

  • 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 that 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-age 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
  • Cannot understand what you are saying unless they are looking directly at you
  • Cannot identify where sounds are coming from
  • Is exhausted at the end of school from concentrating to understand speech
  • Shows signs of behavioral problems or social difficulties
  • Experiences problems keeping up at school or grades slipping

What to do if you think your child has hearing loss

Get their hearing tested by a hearing health professional who specializes in all types of hearing solutions, including hearing implants. Even 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 read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.

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

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