Your newborn baby’s reflexes
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Aileen Keigher
Community Midwife Team Leader Whittington Hospital, London
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Physical development

Newborn hearing test

At birth, your baby's hearing is fully developed - as good as an adult's. She will have been listening in on the world whilst in the womb (though things sound different through the amniotic fluid) and will recognise your voice and that of your partner.
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In Short
It’s very noisy in the womb at around 95 decibels. It's no surprise then that in general, babies like noise, especially music and other rhythmic noises. The "whoosh-whoosh" of washing machines are a common favourite!

Hearing screening

Hearing screening is usually done in the early days after babies are born. If you’ve had a home birth then a hearing test will be arranged in the community within the first two or three weeks of life.

This hearing tests usually happens while your newborn is asleep and involves your baby wearing little headphones. The machine records your baby’s ears’ electrical response to various sound frequencies. This test picks up most hearing problems in small babies.

Signs that your baby’s hearing is fine

If your baby passes their baby hearing test, you can expect her to react to loud noises like a car starting or sudden noises. When she’s very little, she’ll often startle awake – and as she gets a bit bigger she’ll turn towards you when she hears your voice.

Talk, talk, talk

Your baby loves voices and loves your voice the most. She will look at your mouth and eyes as you speak so have lots of face to face contact. Give her time to respond with a screech or squirm of delight.

Signs that your baby might have a hearing problem

If your baby doesn’t startle as a newborn baby to loud noises in the environment – and later doesn’t turn towards you when you speak then just follow your instinct and go and take them along to be more formally assessed. You are able to self-refer your baby for a hearing test via your health visitor. There are many treatments for children with mild to severe hearing impairment from surgery to hearing aids.

Glue Ear

Glue ear is a condition where the middle ear does not drain properly and fills with fluid. This space should be filled with air so that the bones of the middle ear can vibrate in response to noise causing a vibration on the ear drum and so transmit sound information to the cochlea in the inner ear.

Persistent glue ear can seriously impair hearing and lead to speech and language delay. It’s really vital to get your baby or child’s hearing checked if you suspect glue ear – do not be falsely reassured. You know your baby the best so get a second opinion if you think their hearing is impaired. Glue ear can really hamper language development and cause painful ear infections.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.