Is your toddler just not listening or do they have a hearing problem? Are they ignoring you or not actually hearing you?
How can you tell?
You’re right to be concerned – hearing problems – even minor ones – can lead to speech issues and social difficulties.
Here are some tips and ideas for how to spot signs of an actual hearing problem in your toddler depending on their age.
1. From 12 to 18 months, toddlers with normal hearing usually respond to music, familiar names, and simple commands (“stop that” or “come here”). Toddlers this age also babble, can identify parts of their body when you name the part (“where’s your belly?”), and they will look up or turn their heads in response to a sound. Note your toddler’s behavior and see if he is responding to these types of auditory stimulation.
2. Between 18 and 24 months, your toddler might have a hearing problem if they do not respond verbally when you ask them something or doesn’t respond when you read books aloud. Since speech and hearing are connected, watch toddlers this age for vocabulary – if their hearing is normal, they will probably say five or more words by this time and will be able to identify objects verbally (e.g. “doggy” or “mama”).
3. Over the age of 2 and before the age of 3, hearing problems may manifest as an inability to form multi-word sentences (even just two words), and your toddler may exhibit a lack of interest in hearing stories. Directional verbs like “stop” or “run” may not appear to register with them, and they may fail to respond to questions like “Who is that?”
4. As your toddler approaches the age of 3, a hearing problem might present as simple an inability to understand words spoken to them, and they will probably not have enough command of the language to use words effectively themselves. They may fail to understand specific words or concepts such as plural nouns and/or words that refer to size or possession (“mine”). They may not seem curious as they neglect to ask “why” like many toddlers their age.
These are just some of the warning signs of hearing problems and are certainly not cause for alarm in and of themselves. But if some of the above sounds familiar, it won’t hurt to check with your pediatrician. They can refer you to a specialist who can perform some simple tests to determine if your toddler has a hearing problem.