At birth, your baby’s hearing is her strongest sense. While not completely developed, a newborn baby’s hearing is very keen and already receptive to familiar sounds such as the voice of her mother. Because the interpretation of sound occurs in the brain, hearing is linked to many stages of development ranging from gross motor skills to speech. Today we’ll be exploring ways to nurture your baby’s sense of hearing.
A baby’s sense of hearing develops around 20 to 24 weeks in utero. Many studies have shown that babies can hear in the womb and some respond to external sounds like music, loud clamoring or their mother’s voice. Babies often have fluid in their inner ears at birth, which may limit what they hear and is why they are more interested in sounds with high pitches and frequencies.
Since a mother’s voice is familiar and usually higher pitched, babies are extremely interested in what mom’s have to say! Reading, singing and talking to your baby is a terrific way to stimulate your baby’s sense of hearing in the brain that will be used for all sorts of fine and gross motor development, as well as mental development, in the future. Hearing your conversations, whether you’re speaking to her or not, will help your baby understand language. She’ll start to notice voice inflection, cadence, tone and the rhythm of speech. All of these assets are important for your baby’s eventual speech development.
Reading to your baby is essential as well. For hearing to be useful, it must have context and meaning. Identifying objects and their corresponding words is vital to this level of comprehension. Much of this occurs naturally as your baby is constantly learning from her surroundings. But you can nurture your baby’s sense of hearing by reading books and pointing to pictures when you say the words.
The same is true for identifying objects and the noises they make. During playtime, use lots of noisy toys like rattles, musical instruments and other “talking” toys. When you are outside and hear cars, airplanes or birds, verbalize what your baby is hearing to make the connection. You can also help your baby make noises to understand different surfaces and wearing rattles on your baby’s arms or feet can encourage body awareness.
Music is another amazing way to nurture your baby’s sense of hearing. Language and music share a nerve pathway in the brain and are neighbors in the brain community. Music is interpreted using both sides of the brain so exposing your baby to complex music helps your baby’s brain hemispheres coordinate and work together. This is vital for fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination and cognition. Because balance resides in the inner ear, music will also promote better balance. Any music will do so pick something you and your baby will enjoy.
At about two months old your baby may pause when she hears noise and she will begin to make vowel sounds like “ahhh” and “ohhh.” In the four to five month range your baby may begin mirroring your facial expressions when you speak and babble using consonant sounds. When your baby talks to you, talk back to help her understand the nature of conversation and that you are interested in what she has to say. Pretty soon she’ll probably be talking your ear off and it all began with these strategies to nurture your baby’s sense of hearing.
Sources: Aimee’s Babies and Baby Center