Protecting baby’s hearing

We are well aware of the effects of second-hand smoke on others, especially young children, including the effects of smoking during pregnancy on the unborn baby.

If a mother smokes during a pregnancy, her baby is directly exposed to toxins. This exposure can result in babies born smaller than normal and with higher risks of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Although the exact cause is not well understood, it is likely the multiple toxins in cigarette smoke somehow interfere with the brain connections responsible for hearing.

We also need to ask friends and family not to smoke around young children.

Since I am on the topic of hearing in babies, here is a guide of signs of normal hearing development by age through the first two years of life:

By four months a baby should:

  • Move or react when someone speaks or in response to any noise
  • Startle when there is a very loud noise


By seven months a baby should:

  • Turn his/her head towards a voice or a noise (when a parent calls, even without being seen)
  • Stir or move in response to a noise or voice
  • Startle when there is a large sound


By nine months a baby should:

  • Turn his/her head to find out where a sound is coming from
  • Turn around if a parent is calling from behind
  • Stir or move in response to voice or any sound
  • Startle when there is a very loud noise


At 12 months a baby should:

  • Turn his/her head in all directions and show an interest in a person’s voice or a particular sound
  • Repeat sounds that parents make
  • Startle in response to a loud noise


At two years a child should:

  • Be able to point out a part of his body when asked without seeing that person’s lips move
  • Be able to point to the right picture when asked (for example: Where is the cat? Where is the bird?)
  • Be able to do simple tasks like give you one of his/her toys when asked, without seeing that person’s lips move


If your child never does these things at the appropriate age as listed above or if you have any doubts about your child’s hearing, speak to your healthcare provider. Hearing is vital for proper speech development and the earlier a problem is detected, the better.


New study in the Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology

The study, conducted on over 50,000 children aged three years who were born between 2004 and 2010, linked exposure to smoking during pregnancy and second-hand smoke after birth with hearing problems in their babies.

The study found the following:

  • Exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy and as newborns raises the risk of hearing problems by 2.4 times
  • Children exposed within the first four months of life are 30 percent more at risk
  • Children are 26 per cent more at risk if their mothers smoked during their pregnancies