This is my first post! I am so excited because this is the week that baby can start to hear sounds! We learn using other senses as well, but in the womb, learning takes place through hearing for the most part (some may argue this, but for speech and language purposes, I vote hearing as the most important learning sense that develops in the womb that babies start utilizing before birth).
Hearing is one of the first senses to develop in the womb that creates a meaningful impact on their cognitive abilities; although, it is not the first sense to develop(touch and taste and light sensitivity come first). At 16 weeks, the baby can hear the sounds inside of the mother. Sounds like digestion, the heartbeat, and importantly, her voice! The only downside is that the sounds are not yet able to be understood fully by the brain in a way that makes sense, but baby is getting there! In fact, inside the womb, the sounds of the mothers voice are clear as day and unobstructed, whereas even later on, sounds from outside the womb are always a little muffled sounding, like being underwater. That is because inside the mom, the sound doesn't have to travel through air and then uterus. The sound is actually amplified by your insides and your bones.
In fact, studies show that babies respond to familiar voices in utero, which is usually measured by tracking the baby's heart rate. There have been studies that also show babies responding to familiar sounds, books, and music after they are born. They can tell if babies recognize the sounds by tracking how long the baby looks in the direction of the sound. Unfamiliar sounds being a longer period of engagement, with familiar sounds shorter engagement.
Sounds going on outside the womb are still too muffled right now. As their hearing improves, they will be able to make out sounds of others, like dad's voice! At least all the bones for hearing are finally in place, so it's a start!
What Should I Be Doing Now?:
1) Right now, sing along to some songs you enjoy.
2) If you speak another language, make sure you are speaking in that second language as well!
1) The songs that baby hears in the womb will be the same songs that calm them down when they are upset outside the womb, so make sure it's something you enjoy listening to as well! That is because it is familiar and familiar = comfort for babies!
2) Infants have the incredible ability to learn language and believe it or not, the younger they are, the easier it is for them to learn! Talk away in as many languages as you know!