Many babies utter mama, papa, dada, and similar sounds that contain consonant-vowel repetitions. They usually do this when they reach 6 to 8 months old; but these babbles may not be achieved by infants with hearing problems, unless they are provided with cochlear implants. That’s because according to a University of Missouri study, babies babble because they want to listen to themselves. Even infants with hearing loss may start babbling this way once they receive cochlear implants.

Mary Fagan, an MU School of Health Professionals’ communication science and disorder assistant professor, said that hearing plays an important role in the babies’ motivation to produce sounds. This also shows that infants draw from their experience in developing their behavior, especially when it involves their social, language, and cognitive aspects. Fagan added that this does not discredit the effect of hearing from others on language development in babies, but it proves that infants do not entirely learn from hearing others speak. They also try to speak to help themselves develop.

The research studied 27 hearing babies and 16 babies with hearing loss but who have received cochlear implants. Those with hearing problems were relatively quiet when it comes to making babbling, but they changed after receiving the implants, more babies were found to be babbling more, vocalizing with more repetitive syllables, and increasing the number of repetitions with every baby babble, according to Fagan.

The study shows that babies do love hearing their babbles. Fagan also said other studies also showed babies imagining their babbles, which is why they tend to babble more instead of follow the sounds and words that they often hear from the adults around them.

Fagan also added that parents of children with hearing problems should know more about cochlear implants before deciding to get one for their children. She said that whatever the parents’ decision may be, it is always better to have kids receive their implants earlier. The sooner the babies get the implants, the faster they can catch up the baby babble stage of their peers in speech development, minimizing any negative impact of hearing loss.