Pregnancy is a miraculous journey for parents-to-be, filled with excitement and anticipation. As the baby grows inside the womb, so does the curiosity of the parents to know more about their little one. One such question that often pops up in their minds is, “When can my unborn baby hear me?”
However, the baby hears mom in the womb from a very early stage of pregnancy, as early as 18 weeks. The development of the baby’s ears begins at around 18 weeks and is functional by the 25th week of pregnancy. This means that your baby can hear sounds from the outside world while still in the womb. In this blog, we will dive into the details of how and what your baby hears while in the womb. So, scroll down to know more!
- Baby hear sounds from the outside world at around 18 weeks of pregnancy.
- The development of the baby’s ears is functional by the 24th week of pregnancy.
- Baby can listen to all the stories and lullabies you want to tell him or her from the womb.
- Studies have shown that babies can recognize their mother’s voice while in the womb.
In This Article
Baby Hearing Development Timeline
As we said above, babies hear sounds in the womb from a very early stage of pregnancy. When fetal development begins, the baby’s ears start to form at around 18 weeks. Look at the chart below to get a better idea of the developmental timeline of the baby’s hearing during pregnancy:
|Week of Pregnancy||Development of Baby|
|5 weeks||The inner ear begins to develop.|
|12 weeks||Formation of the cochlea and middle ear, along with the sprouting of hair cells.|
|16-22 weeks||The baby starts to hear sounds originating from within the mother’s body, such as her heartbeat.|
|24 weeks||The baby’s hearing extends to sounds from the outside world, like a dog barking.|
|26 weeks||The baby’s hearing becomes more refined, allowing them to respond to changes in heartbeat, breathing, and movement in reaction to a broader range of sounds.|
|32-35 weeks||All components of the ear are fully formed, and the baby’s hearing continues to be fine-tuned.|
However, as you can see, the baby’s hearing is not fully developed until around 32-35 weeks of pregnancy. This means that your baby hears you from a very early stage and continues to develop their hearing abilities until birth.
In the second month of pregnancy, the baby’s eyes and ears begin to form, making way for the development of other senses like smell and touch. By week 12, the middle ear and cochlea are formed, which are responsible for transmitting sounds to the brain.
Similarly, by week 18, these structures start to function, and your baby can hear internal loud noises like your heartbeat and digestive system. By 24 weeks, your baby can hear sounds from the outside world, such as your voice and other external sounds.
When Can a Baby Start Hearing in the Womb?
As your pregnancy progresses, you may start to wonder when can a fetus hear in the womb. As mentioned earlier, babies can hear sounds from outside as early as 18 weeks of pregnancy. However, these sounds are muffled due to the amniotic fluid surrounding them.
Around week 9, the baby’s neck and inner ears are developed, allowing them to start hearing internal sounds. This is why your baby can hear your voice, heartbeat, and other bodily sounds from an early stage of pregnancy.
Moreover, your baby can hear loud sounds around week 24, but the sounds will still be muffled due to amniotic fluid. By week 32-35, your baby’s hearing is fully developed, and they can hear sounds clearly without any distortions. At this stage, you may notice that your baby responds to external noises by kicking or moving around in the womb.
What Sounds Can a Baby Hear Inside the Womb?
As you know, the inner ear of the baby is functional by 24 weeks of pregnancy; they can hear loud noise, your voice, and other external noises. But what exactly do they hear? The baby can sound loud noises such as a dog barking, street noise, and the TV playing in the background. They can also hear your heartbeat, breathing sounds, and even hiccups.
Many research suggests that babies can hear and respond to their mother’s voice while in the womb. The mother’s voice is the first and most familiar sound for the baby. They have heard it from the very early stages of pregnancy, making them recognize it right after birth.
Generally, a baby’s ears continue to develop throughout the pregnancy, helping them hear more clearly and identify different sounds.
By the third trimester, your baby can also respond to other sounds, like if you play music, talk, or sing to them. Sounds your baby hears in the womb contribute to hearing and brain development, which is why doctors recommend talking or reading to your baby while still in the womb.
When do babies develop ears?
During your first and second trimester, your baby’s ears are developing at a rapid pace. Baby’s hearing continues to develop during your third trimester as well. The ear is a complex organ with three separate parts: the inner ear, the middle ear, and the outer ear. The development of all these parts is necessary for your baby to hear fully.
- Inner ear development: By 5 weeks of pregnancy, visible structures of the inner ear can be identified. At this stage, the baby can hear a few words you say, but they are muffled due to the amniotic fluid. The sacs then lengthen into a tube by 7 weeks, and the baby can hear more complex sounds, such as classical music and loud noises.
- Middle ear development: By 8 weeks of pregnancy, the middle ear is fully formed, connecting to the inner ear through a tube known as the Eustachian tube. This part is responsible for improving hearing abilities and helps your baby differentiate between different sounds.
- The connection between ear and brain: About 12 weeks into pregnancy, the voice reverberates from the walls of the mother’s uterus to the baby. By 16 weeks, this connection between mommy’s voice and the baby’s brain becomes more evident.
- Baby’s ears fully developed: About half a month before birth, the baby’s ear and hearing ability are almost fully developed, which is 32-35 weeks of pregnancy, as we mentioned above. At this stage, the middle ear cavity, outer ear canal, and eardrum are all developed.
How Does a Baby Respond to Sounds?
Babies respond to sounds in various ways, showcasing their developing hearing abilities. When they hear familiar sounds like their mother’s voice or lullabies, babies may become more alert and attentive. They might kick, squirm, or move in response to the sound. Sudden noises louder than 80 decibels may startle them and cause movement in the womb.
For example, if you play classical music to your baby during pregnancy regularly, they may respond positively to the same music after birth. This is because babies can recognize familiar sounds and may find them comforting.
However, sound also plays a role in developing a baby’s sleep-wake cycle in the womb. Studies have shown that babies may sleep for longer durations when exposed to soothing sounds, like lullabies or their mother’s voice. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to talk and sing to your baby while they are in the womb.
How do you support baby hearing during pregnancy?
Babies can hear their mother’s voice, other external sounds, and even recognize familiar songs while in the womb. Here are some ways you can support your baby’s hearing development during pregnancy:
- Talk to your Baby: Make it a habit to talk to your baby while they are in the womb. This will not only help them know your voice but also soothe and comfort them.
- Sing Lullabies: Studies have shown that babies can recognize familiar songs or lullabies that they heard while in the womb. So, sing your favorite tunes to your little one!
- Play music: Playing soft and soothing music is known to calm the baby while in the womb and even after birth. However, be mindful of the volume, as loud noises can be harmful to the baby’s developing ears.
- Be careful with medications: Some medications, especially antibiotics, can affect the baby’s hearing development. Consult with your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy.
- Avoid exposure to loud noises: Exposure to loud noises during pregnancy can harm the baby’s developing ears. If you are in a noisy environment, try to move away or use earplugs.
- Avoid mercury fish: Some fish have high levels of mercury, which can harm the baby’s hearing development. Avoid consuming these fishes during pregnancy.
To sum it up, a baby’s hearing development starts as early as 18 weeks of pregnancy and continues to develop until birth. It is crucial for expecting mothers to take care of their own hearing health during pregnancy, as well as avoiding exposure to loud noises and certain medications that can harm the baby’s developing ears. By talking, singing, and playing music to your baby while they are in the womb, you can help their hearing development!