From conception until birth, babies do not waste a single second in the construction of their squishy little bodies. Babies are amazing when you stop and think about it: Their whole being is literally formed from two cells, and parents celebrate that fact by counting 10 little toes and 10 little fingers.

As expectant parents, we wait (impatiently) for 40 long weeks to be able to tell our little bundle that they are loved, but the truth is they can hear those words long before we can hear any noise our babe makes. Hearing is one sense that connects them to us while they are still womb-side. So how exactly does a baby’s hearing develop?

In Utero

Before a baby can first hear, his entire hearing structure must first be created, and that process starts at the very beginning of pregnancy.

Week four of pregnancy

Even though mom-to-be may not even know she’s got a baby on board, baby is already busy at work. Baby is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence and the cells are beginning to assemble into their intended body parts. The cells that will form baby’s ears are printing up their blueprints.

If baby could hear this week, he’d hear your whoops of joy as you receive your BFP.

Week nine of pregnancy

Mama may be in the midst of morning all day sickness, but that doesn’t hamper baby’s development. Although the ears themselves have not sprouted, there are now visible indentations, which signify the groundbreaking – so to speak – for baby’s ears.

If baby could hear this week, he’d hear you tiredly ask “Pass the Saltines, please?”

Week 16-18 of pregnancy

Congratulations! Baby’s ears are officially working. His inner ear and all those accompanying bones are developed enough to hear those first few sounds. To be fair, your voice will sound more like an underwater megaphone than a crisp Bose speaker. As baby matures, however, his hearing will improve.

Week 24 of pregnancy

Some researchers note that babies’ heart rates increase when they hear their mother’s voice, which means baby is already paying attention to what you have to say.

Week 30+ of pregnancy

Studies indicate that babies who frequently hear the same lullaby during this time are later soothed by that same lullaby once they are born. Pretty cool!

Common phrases baby will hear during the third trimester: “When will he be here” and “I love you.”

baby hearing sounds of their cry

Birth

Birth is many things and “loud” can be one of them. From the constant beeping of monitors to the incessant chatter between doctor and nurses to the moaning (okay, yelling) during the ring of fire, the world can be noisy when a baby first enters it. Two particular noises stand out among the rest.

1 | Baby’s own first cry

Not only do mothers everywhere rejoice at this cry, it is also the first time baby hears himself cry. Does it scare him? Or does it make him proud? We’ll never know but I like to think it’s a cry of relief that labor is over. Although, interestingly, some researchers connect that first cry to musical ability later in life.

2 | Mother’s voice

Studies show that the maternal voice is very soothing to baby – after all, it’s been his lullaby since, well, the very first second he could hear. Don’t feel bad, Dads. Dads come in a close second.

Popular phrases a baby hears at birth: “It’s a boy/girl!” “You’re beautiful!” and last but not least “I love you.”

EMS baby earmuffs for protection from loud noise

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe every parent should understand the intricacies of hearing development (and not be concerned when their kid starts flat out ignoring them).

Newborn

Just like a newborn’s eyesight, the hearing is working, but not at full power. After spending 40+ weeks floating in fluid, there’s still some residual fluid inside of a newborn’s middle ear, which can slightly – but temporarily – affect hearing. This is not unlike the hearing fuzziness we experience as adults when there’s pool water stuck in our ear. Add this to a brand new and slightly undeveloped hearing system and you begin to understand why “baby talk” is so popular: Babies respond better to sounds that are high pitched and exaggerated because they can hear those sounds better.

Other hearing milestones

  • Soothed by a familiar voice (two months)
  • Looks for the source of a noise (four months)
  • Imitates sounds they hear (six months)

Popular phrases a newborn hears: “Shhhh,” “Why aren’t you going to sleep,” “Please go to sleep,” and of course “I love you.”

Baby hearing development water sounds

Toddlerhood

Welcome to toddlerhood – the land where having ears doesn’t mean they are actually used! Parents tend to focus on teaching busy tots to work on their listening skills. (Easier said than done, I know.) Dealing with a toddler who tunes you out can be infuriating, but it is a smidge easier to handle when you understand the reason for the tune out. Toddlers – who still have poor impulse control – are slowly developing their autonomy, and for some kids, that autonomy is manifests as ignorance to whatever you’re saying.

Common phrases a toddler might hear: “No,” “Don’t climb on that,” “I said no already,” “Come back here,” “Don’t eat that,” and of course “I love you.”

How to keep a toddler’s ears healthy

While the terrible twos may force us to focus on the listening aspect of ears, there are many other ways to help keep a tot’s ears physically healthy:

  • Prevent ear infections with extra hand washing during cold season
  • Protect your toddler from loud noises. Toddlers love exploring their big beautiful world. Part of those explorations may include concerts on the green and Fourth of July fireworks. But since their ears are susceptible to damage – and over a third of hearing loss cases are due to loud noises – be sure to bring Ems to functions where loud noises are anticipated. Have a baby in tow? Grab the Bubs Baby earmuffs.
  • Teach him not to stick objects like crayons and beans into his ears.

Whether your baby is still in utero building those budding ears or working hard to hold a conversation with you, the most important thing those little ears will ever hear are the sweet words of a parent: “I love you.”

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe every parent should understand the intricacies of hearing development (and not be concerned when their kid starts flat out ignoring them).