Early Hearing Assessments May Indicate Autism

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Autism is a condition that affects millions of children across the United States. Yet, no single definitive cause has been identified. Early intervention is key to treating this condition. But, sometimes a diagnosis of autism is difficult because it shares symptoms with other common conditions such as ADHD or developmental delays.

A recent body of research published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association has revealed a new connection between auditory conditions and autism spectrum disorder. According to the study, certain auditory tests that can be administered at birth may give parents an indication of whether or not they should be on the lookout for autism.

While a positive test is not lead directly to an autism diagnosis, since many people with hearing abnormalities do not live with autism spectrum disorder, it may be an indicator for further testing and early intervention.

A Different Kind Of Hearing Test

Most babies are given a simple hearing test at birth on a pass/fail basis. But, another test called stapedial reflex testing or acoustic reflex testing may tell us much more about the babies hearing and other processing issues.

Acoustic reflex testing examines the changes of pressure in the middle ear when stimulated by sound at a variety of frequencies. This test can give caregivers an accurate picture of a child’s sensitivity to sound.

Hypersensitivity to sound is a hallmark symptom of the autism spectrum. And while not everyone with auditory hypersensitivity is autistic, the vast majority of autistic children are hypersensitive to sound.

Watching Out For Autism

Knowing from birth that a child has this hypersensitivity can put caregivers on high alert for other telltale signs of autism, which can have positive consequences such as early intervention.

Babies and children’s brains are very malleable. Even if they are born with certain sensitivities, their minds can be trained to become more resilient amidst challenging environments while they are still young, giving them a better chance for living a less restrictive life as an adult.

The better a child can respond to auditory stimuli without becoming overwhelmed, the more quickly and successfully they can develop their communication skills, and in turn, their social-emotional skills, all of which are closely interconnected.

Early Intervention

The challenge now is to identify and implement proper early interventions in children as young as infancy. Currently, most children are diagnosed with autism around preschool ages. If acoustic reflex testing becomes more common practice, the instances of diagnoses could increase among even younger populations.

The earlier intervention can take place the better. The brain is extremely adaptable at young ages. And the earlier the brain undergoes training the more effective and long lasting the results of that training will be.

So, while more studies need to be conducted to identify early diagnostic methods such as acoustic reflex testing at birth, and strong advocacy needs to be implemented nationwide to have more comprehensive testing done at infancy, we also need to focus on implementing the best methods of intervention for very young children so that positive patterns can be learned and implemented at a young age.


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