The ability to speak is an important milestone that most children eventually reach. Even though every child’s development is different, if you feel like your child isn’t working towards this milestone, hearing loss may be to blame.

Realizing that your toddler suffers from hearing loss can be a challenging understanding because they lack the fundamental communication skills to let you know that something is wrong. For toddlers with hearing loss, they will be unaware that their hearing is different from other people; after all, it is only the hearing ability that they know of.

To help you recognize if your toddler suffers from hearing loss and should see a specialist, here are some important warning signs to be aware of.

1. Body language

Toddlers that are pre-verbal and are unable to communicate with words are still able to communicate with their bodies; you just need to be more aware of subtle movements.

If you notice that your child turns their head to the same side when you talk to them, even if they are facing towards you, then this may be a sign of hearing loss in one ear. Children want to be able to listen and learn words, and will do what needs to be done in order to understand what you are saying. If one ear doesn’t produce sound but the other does, then your child will instinctively want to use their better ear for listening.

2. Non-responsive behavior

The problem with realizing that your toddler may suffer from hearing loss is that a lot of times they are too involved in their play time to actively listen to what you are saying. It’s not enough to believe that your child can’t hear when you talk to them if they don’t react. Instead, make sure you have their attention. Get down to ground level and make sure that they are looking at your face. If possible, remove any distractors like toys or TV. 

Once you believe that you have your child’s full attention, you can give a simple command. By the age of 18 months, children should be able to pick out their shoes or point to body parts. If your child knows this vocabulary, test it out. If they look at your blankly and don’t seem to understand, despite previous demonstrations of their awareness, then chances are hearing loss could be to blame.

3. Little interest in songs or books

Toddlers love rhythm and rhyme and most children’s books capitalize on this. While singing and reading may not always be enjoyable to your toddler, they should have some interest in them. If, however, your child expresses no interest in either songs or books, then they may not be able to hear the lyrics or words. Try different types of songs and books with everyday words to see if this makes a difference.

4. Parent’s intuition

All children progress at their own pace and while there are many charts and graphs that help to explain when milestones will be hit, a parent knows best if their child is progressing. If you feel like something isn’t right, but you can’t quite figure it out, speak with your doctor about taking your child to a hearing specialist. Parents need to take the first step in working with their child to ensure they are healthy, but professionals will know what further steps can be taken.