Speech-language milestones help pediatric audiologists identify potential audiological problems by assessing a young child’s communicational development.

What Are Speech-Language Milestones?

speech-language milestones - Central Oregon ENT - Bend - Redmond OregonChildren all learn and develop differently, so it can be difficult to determine whether a baby’s communication abilities are progressing at a normal, healthy rate. Despite huge variations in the process of early childhood development, infants typically follow some universal patterns of speech and hearing growth. Using these patterns, we are able to evaluate a child’s development using a set of guidelines called speech-language milestones.

These communicational guidelines are helpful tools for parents as well. A basic understanding of speech-language milestones will allow you to assess whether your child’s language development is normal or irregular. Irregular communicational development doesn’t always indicate a hearing loss; however, any child who shows signs of slow development should get a hearing assessment immediately.

Speech-Language Milestones for Infants and Toddlers

The following list describes the most important speech and hearing benchmarks for young children. Normally developing children should be able to perform the tasks described by the end of the milestone’s specified age range.

Age Speech Milestones Hearing Milestones
0–1 Year

Infants begin producing basic sounds like babbling early in their first year. By their first birthday, they string different multi-tonal sounds together and repeat familiar sounds like mama, dada and baba.

Infants should respond to loud, familiar or surprising sounds (e.g. music, bangs or thuds, a dog’s bark, their name, whistling, etc.) through actions including movement, eye contact and making sounds.

1–2 years

Within the span of a year, a child’s language production should transform from incoherent babbling to recognizable speech. By age two, most children can produce about 50 words and are able to form basic two- or three-word phrases.

Children gain an understanding of the names of familiar objects as well as basic commands. By 24 months, children can typically understand and perform two-part commands (e.g. touch your ear and wiggle your toes).

2–3 years

A child’s vocabulary rapidly expands from dozens to hundreds of words. By age three, a toddler should be producing basic sentences. Children with normal hearing begin engaging in communication with their parents, teachers and peers at this age.

Toddlers develop the ability to differentiate between words like “over” and “under.” They also can follow more complicated commands and identify some numbers and colors. Children this age should have a word for almost all familiar objects and be using 2-3 word phrases.

3–4 years

Your child’s speech should be understandable, even to strangers. Children of this age ask questions, use pronouns and tell stories that are a few sentences long.

Children recognize and respond when their name is called from another room and display a solid understanding of basic language. Your child should be able to hear TV, movies, games and music at the same volume as adults with normal hearing.

If your child is behind on any of these language development benchmarks, it’s imperative to check for a hearing impairment right away. Untreated hearing loss can result in major developmental, behavioral and communicational setbacks for young children. At Central Oregon Hearing Aid Center, our pediatric audiologists will take the time to understand your concerns, assess your child’s hearing and develop the best treatment plan for your family’s needs.