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What's That Sound?

Your baby can hear at birth, but sounds aren't much more than meaningless squawks at first. "Hearing is a sense that's developed with time and experience," says Gail Whitelaw, Ph.D., president of the American Academy of Audiology in Reston, VA. What to expect:

Newborn to 4 months
Your baby will be startled by loud noises. By 2 months, she'll become quiet at the sound of a familiar voice.

You can help by talking, singing, and reading to her. At this point, you're laying the foundations for speech, which relies on hearing and then imitating sounds.

4 to 6 months
Your baby will probably turn her head to see where a sound is coming from; she may also babble and chuckle.

You can help by exposing her to a variety of new sounds. It's a great time to give her a busy box, play music softly, or tap out a tune with a pot and spoon.

6 to 9 months
Sounds are starting to make sense, so she may begin to imitate speech. Babbles might sound like "baba" or "gaga," which are her first steps toward saying real words.

You can help by explaining what your baby's seeing ("Let's look at the red bird outside") to show her that words are related to objects and actions.

9 to 12 months
She may use basic words like "mama" and "no." She wants to imitate you, so she may bounce or dance to music if you do.

You can help by showing her you're proud of the words she's trying to get out ("Yes! That's the dog!").

If you're concerned your child hasn't reached any of these milestones, talk to your pediatrician about further screening, since not all hearing loss is present at birth.