Hearing and sight are both crucial for Your Child’s development. For example, Your Child needs to see well to explore the environment and move from one place to another. Similarly, to develop everyday speech and language skills, your baby should be able to hear spoken words.
Statistics have shown that early detection and treatment of babies with vision or hearing problems improve their development. But detecting hearing or vision problems in a baby early enough is quite tricky. It requires careful observation and knowledge of how babies see and hear.
What can my baby see?
Just like the way babies learn to walk and talk, it takes time for Your Child to develop a clear vision. As the little one gets older, Your Child will learn how to focus the eyes, visually track objects, and use both eyes together in a coordinated fashion.
In the first week of life, Your Child can only see objects that are 20 – 30 cm away. Interestingly, this is about the distance between a mom and her baby’s face during feeding, so the mother and the child can get to know each other early enough. A baby’s eyes are susceptible to bright light. So Your Child is more likely to open the eyes in a low-light environment. And it’s normal for the eyes to drift outward since the eye muscles are still weak.
Babies can see bright colors right from the start, so give Your Child lots of cute things to observe. By 4 to 6 weeks, Your Child should be able to gaze intently at your face, so both of you can have some personal time, and Your Child may try to mimic your facial expression. At 3 months, Your Child can visually track a moving object. By 6 months, both eyes should be working in a coordinated fashion, and your little one can recognize familiar faces even at a far distance.
What can I do to help Your Child’s vision?
Your Child’s vision will develop naturally, and we can support the child by providing interesting things to see. Babies love seeing human faces, contrasting shapes and patterns, and bright-colored objects. You can place pictures and toys in Your Child’s line of sight.
Install a baby mobile on top of the crib, which moves with the wind so Your Child gets to practice eye movements. Note that the most effective mobiles are either attached to the crip or hung down so that the baby is tempted to move it to make sounds.
Anything to check for, and when should I worry?
Because your baby’s vision is still developing, you may not be able to detect abnormalities within the first 6 months. If, after 6 months, you notice that one of your baby’s eyes drifts outward, consult the pediatrician. Other signs to look out for include excessive tearing, chronic redness of the eyes, and tilting the head to look at an object.
Protecting Your Child’s vision
The best way to protect Your Child’s vision is to protect the eyes. Always keep sharp objects away from your baby. And when possible, have Your Child wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from direct sunlight.
What does my baby hear?
Your Child can hear since the little one was in the womb. So at birth, your baby can hear any sound and even recognize the mother’s voice. The little one may be startled by a sudden loud sound or seem soothed by any familiar voice.
However, newborns can’t yet locate the source of sounds. It is not until about 3-4 months that Your Child will turn towards the direction of a sound. Babies love to hear human voices, so talk or sing to the little one often.
When to check my baby’s hearing
Most newborns receive hearing screening at birth before being released from the hospital. However, if Your Child didn’t have it, or was born at home or a birthing center, try to check within the first month. Babies with hearing impairment are usually diagnosed through a hearing screening.
In addition, your pediatrician normally runs basic hearing examinations during normal visits. If everything is normal, the next objective hearing screening will be at 4 years of age. Hearing screening is necessary for the early detection and treatment of hearing problems, which has been shown to improve the outcome of hearing and speech in babies with hearing impairment.
Dr. Prapasri Nuntnarumit (Developmental psychologist) (31 March 2021)