Can your baby hear you say "I love you"?

What to know

The best way to find out if your baby may be deaf or hard of hearing starts by getting a hearing screening. Early diagnosis and intervention will help them reach their full potential.

baby crawling and looking excited

Why it's important

Thousands of babies are born deaf or hard of hearing each year in the United States. Babies who are diagnosed with hearing loss and begin intervention services early are more likely to reach their full potential. The best way to find out if your baby may be deaf or hard of hearing is by a simple hearing test, also called a hearing screening.

Why is a hearing screening important for my baby?

Starting from day one, babies begin to learn language skills by listening to and interacting with those around them. If babies miss these opportunities, their language development can be delayed. Many times, children's hearing loss is not obvious and can go unnoticed for months or even years.

Hearing screening at birth can determine if your baby may have a hearing loss and if more tests are needed. An early diagnosis is essential to help babies who are deaf or hard of hearing reach their full potential and allows families to make decisions about the intervention services that are best for their baby's needs. Early diagnosis of hearing loss and beginning intervention helps to keep children's development on track and improve their future language and social development.

Your baby probably had a hearing screening

Almost all states, communities, and hospitals now screen newborns for hearing loss before the babies leave the hospital. The hearing screening is easy and painless, and it can determine if more testing is needed. In fact, many babies sleep through the hearing screening, and the test usually takes just a few minutes.

What if my baby did not pass the hearing screening?

Additional testing is the next step to tell if your baby has hearing loss and what type of loss it is. A healthcare professional trained to test hearing, such as an audiologist, will be able to perform more detailed hearing tests. Your baby's doctor (or an ear, nose, and throat doctor) should perform or order any medical tests needed to find out the cause of the hearing loss.

Making sure your baby gets this additional testing quickly is also important. CDC-funded research shows just how important it is. Children with hearing loss who are identified before 3 months of age, and receive intervention services before 6 months of age, have better vocabularies than those identified or receiving services later. For more information about this research, visit Giving Every Child the Gift of Words.

If my baby passed the hearing screening, is everything fine?

Because a newborn baby can pass the hearing screening and still develop a hearing loss later, your baby's doctor should routinely follow your baby's general health and development.

For more information, visit CDC's Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) website.

Recommended Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) benchmarks include screening for hearing loss before 1 month of age, diagnostic evaluation before 3 months of age, and enrollment in early intervention before 6 months of age, known as the 1-3-6 Benchmarks.
All infants should be screened for hearing loss no later than 1 month of age. Babies who do not pass the hearing test should see a specialist for a diagnostic evaluation no later than 3 months of age. Enroll infants with hearing loss into services no later than 6 months of age.

What you can do

Every state has a program that works to help make sure that babies who are deaf or hard of hearing are diagnosed early. If you have any concerns about your baby's hearing, ask your baby's doctor for a hearing test or screening as soon as possible. To learn more about this topic, you can also call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit the CDC EHDI Program site.

The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program works with most states to ensure that all babies are screened for hearing loss and receive any needed follow-up tests and services. CDC's EHDI program supports the ongoing work for new ways to improve services. To learn more about CDC's important role in helping children who are deaf and hard of hearing, download a fact sheet and watch a video in American Sign Language.