Communication: Does Your Child Have a Hearing or Speech Problem?

by Brodie Nepan

Hearing and Speech TestingCommunication skills begin way before your baby utters that first word. A speech or language problem can affect your child's behavior, social and academic skills.

The sooner you notice a problem, the less likely your child's difficulty will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention helps kids be more successful with reading, writing and relationships. Well child appointments help pinpoint problem areas, but you are the real expert on your child. Let your doctor know if you feel like communication skills could be lagging.

The list below shows ages that most children reach hearing and talking milestones. Typically they won't master everything until they reach the upper age in the range.

Take a look and see how your child measures up. If a single skill's yet to be reached, your child probably doesn't have a disorder. If you find that they have difficulty with most of the items in an age range, you might want to seek help.

Hearing and Speech Milestones

Birth to Three Months

Hearing and Understanding:

  • Startles at loud sounds
  • Quiets or smiles when you speak
  • Sucks more or less in response to sound


  • Makes gooing and cooing sounds
  • Uses different cries for different needs
  • Smiles at you

Four to Six Months

Hearing and Understanding:

  • Moves eyes toward sounds
  • Responds to changes in your tone
  • Notices toys that make sounds
  • Is aware of music


  • Babbling sound more like speech and includes different sounds
  • Laughs and chuckles
  • Uses sounds to express excitement and displeasure
  • Makes gurgling sounds

Seven Months to One Year

Hearing and Understanding:

  • Enjoys playing games like pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo
  • Listens when you speak
  • Turns and tries to locate sounds
  • Recognizes common words
  • Begins to respond to requests


  • Babbles in both long and short groups of sounds
  • Uses sounds besides crying to get attention
  • Waves, holds up arms or uses other gestures to communicate
  • Imitates speech sounds
  • Says one or two words around first birthday

One to Two Years Old

Hearing and Understanding:

  • Can point to a few body parts when asked
  • Understands simple questions and can follow simple requests
  • Listens to stories, songs and rhymes
  • Points to pictures in a book when named


  • Says more words every month
  • Uses one- and two-word questions like "What's that?"
  • Puts two words together
  • Uses different consonant sounds at the beginning of words

Two to Three Years

Hearing and Understanding:

  • Understands differences in meaning of words like stop and go
  • Follows two requests
  • Enjoys hearing longer stories


  • Has a word for almost everything
  • Uses two or three words to ask for things and often calls objects by name
  • Uses k, g, f, t, d and n sounds
  • Friends and family understand speech most of the time

    Four to Five Years

    Hearing and Understanding:

    • Pays attention to short stories and asks questions about them
    • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and school


    • Uses sentences with details
    • Tells stories that stick to a topic
    • Can communicate easily with adults and other children
    • Says rhyming words
    • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family

    Getting Help

    If you think your child has a speech, language, or hearing problem, you can contact an audiologist or a speech-language pathologist.

    Audiologists specialize in preventing, diagnosing, identifying, and non-medical treatment of those with hearing loss and balance disorders.

    Speech-language pathologists help individuals develop their communication abilities and treat speech, language, swallowing, and voice disorders.