Early Brain Development
Healthy newborns begin life ready to learn about their world. As a parent, you are the most important person in your baby’s life. Science tells us that babies who have a loving home where family and caregivers provide good nutrition and lots of interaction through talking, singing, reading, and playing have the best chance for good brain development and a bright future. Most babies with hearing loss can have the same chance to develop their brain for learning language and reading as their hearing friends. You can learn more about early brain development and the things you can do to make sure that your baby with hearing loss has what they need to grow the brain for listening and spoken language.
EARLY EXPERIENCES SHAPE THE BRAIN
When you have a positive interaction with your baby, like imitating the sounds they are making to encourage them to make more, you are helping to shape their brain for a lifetime of learning. These experiences change the brain by growing the connections needed to learn to have conversations with friends, read books, create art, think about and solve problems, and do well in school. These early experiences also have a significant impact on social skills and the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others.
The ears are like a doorway to the brain that lets sound and language in. Your baby's brain needs sound as early as possible to build the neural connections that will help them learn from all of the wonderful experiences you provide. If your baby has hearing loss, that doorway to sound isn't completely open – at least, not yet. Today, it’s possible to open that doorway to the brain with hearing technology and medical care so that your baby can get the auditory information they need.
A Critical Window
There is a very short window of time that a baby’s brain is the most ready to learn language. The first three and a half years are critical for auditory brain development, meaning the part of the brain that has the most connections for listening, talking, and reading. While children continue to learn throughout their lifetime, they need early access to the sounds of speech to learn to listen and talk. That’s why it’s important to get sound to the brain through technology as early as possible. Then you can use the skills you learn in LSL early intervention to begin growing your baby’s brain to learn language.
Brain Wonders: Zero to Three Magic of Every Day Moments
“It is precisely these everyday moments, showing affection, comforting and playing with young children that builds strong healthy brains.”
SERVE AND RETURN
The way you care for and interact with your baby is the most important job you have to influence your baby’s brain development. Babies are born with a brain ready to learn spoken language, recognize speech, and understand and use words to talk.
One of the most important ways for you to help your baby is through activities where you pay attention to their facial expressions and sounds and then talk back in a way that lets them know you are listening. This give and take is called “serve and return.”
Your baby “serves” by smiling, cooing, or babbling to you, and you “return” by talking to your baby, smiling back, and letting your baby know you heard them and want to talk to them. Then, your baby smiles and coos again (serves) because babies love your attention. These back-and-forth interactions will grow your baby’s brain and help them make connections about the world around them.
When babies with hearing loss are diagnosed early and fit with the right hearing devices for their hearing loss, most have the same chance to interact through serve and return activities and grow their brain for listening and talking. In fact, if you want your baby to learn to listen and talk, you will need to learn and practice many new ways to serve and return with your baby. You can learn these new skills in LSL early intervention sessions.
MILESTONES FOR BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
It can be enjoyable to follow your baby’s growth and development as they learn and grow. You’ll want to understand what skills your baby needs at each age and stage so that you can continue to help them move to the next stage of development. It’s possible for most babies with hearing loss to follow the same path of development as their hearing friends. Early diagnosis, wearing the right hearing devices all waking moments, attending regular sessions in LSL early intervention, and making LSL strategies a part of your daily life will help your baby achieve their listening and spoken language goals.
Keep track of your baby’s learning milestones by keeping a checklist close by and providing experiences that lead to new skills. Find your baby’s age and stage here and discover what you can look forward to observing next.