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The Sound of Silence

Many states require a hearing screening at birth, so if you're not sure that your infant was tested, check with your doctor or visit the website [TOUT_LINK {http://www.ncsl.org/programs/health/hear50.htm} {ncsl.org}] to learn about your state's legislation. There are also behavioral signs you can look for to determine whether or not your baby hears you.

You can get a pretty good sense by seeing if he reacts to music, the sound of your voice, or loud noises that are out of visual range (such as clapping your hands behind his back). And don't be shy  -- speaking in a high-pitched voice with long vowel sounds ("Isn't my baby sweeeeet?") catches the attention of your baby more than grown-up talk will.

Babbling starts around six months, but don't mistake this milestone as a sign of his hearing. At this age, "baby talk" is mostly hardwired and not necessarily a case of him hearing and imitating you (even deaf babies "goo-goo-ga-ga" for a time). However, if he's not babbling by the end of his first year tell your pediatrician. And all along the way, talk and sing to your silent spectator or babbling sweetie  -- chances are, he enjoys the attention.

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