Hearing Problems and Speech and Language Milestones

Child sitting with a speech therapist.

Children may reach speech and language milestones at different ages. But in some cases, a child that isn’t developing speech and language on track may have a hearing problem.

Signs of a hearing problem

Being able to hear is important for good speech and language growth. A child who doesn’t respond to sounds or who isn’t developing language skills may have trouble hearing. The age guidelines below may help you know if your child has a hearing problem. Talk with your child's healthcare provider if you think your child isn’t developing speech and language skills on time.

Speech and language milestones

Birth to 3 months

  • Reacts to loud noises

  • Smiles at you

  • Makes sounds of pleasure

  • Knows your voice and may calm down if upset

4 to 6 months

  • Laughs

  • Babbles (says "ba-ba-ba")

  • Notices music or toys that make sounds

7 months to 1 year

  • Looks towards sounds

  • Understands some words like cup or shoe

  • Imitates different sounds

  • Says first words

1 to 2 years

  • Can point to a few parts of the body

  • Points to pictures in books when asked

  • Asks simple 2-word questions

  • Continues to add new words

  • Uses 2-word phrases, such as "more milk"

2 to 3 years

  • Knows some spatial concepts, such as in and on

  • Has words for most things

  • Follows 2-step instructions

  • Uses 3-word sentences

  • Friends and family can understand much of what is said

  • Enjoys hearing stories

  • May have trouble with some sounds

3 to 4 years

  • Can hear you from another room

  • Can hear the TV and radio at same volume as others

  • Identifies colors and shapes

  • Talks about daycare, preschool, or other activities

  • Use 4-word sentences

  • Uses plural words, such as shoes or socks

  • Uses pronouns, such as you, me, her

  • Strangers are able to understand much of what is said

  • Answers simple questions, such as "What do you do when you are hungry?"

4 to 5 years

  • Understands words for time, such as today and tomorrow

  • Understands words for order, such as first and last

  • Follows more difficult or multi-step directions

  • Can say all speech sounds

  • Identified letters and numbers

  • Can tell a short story

  • Can have a conversation