Autism. It is a diagnosis that many now receive, and many are racing to understand and prevent. Could a non-invasive hearing test now help with early diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders? A recent study says yes.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2018 approximately one out of every 59 children was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While it is more frequently diagnosed in boys than in girls, it does not discriminate when it comes to ethnicity or economics.
While there is still much debate on the cause of ASD, most agree that early intervention can make a world of difference. Through interventions such as Applied behavior analysis, speech therapy and occupational therapy, children are able to improve communication and social skills as well as learning skills. The sooner children with ASD are diagnosed and begin these interventions, the stronger their skills going forward.
Hearing Loss, ASD and Early Testing
Because ASD affects the whole body, it is often linked with other conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, epilepsy and even hearing loss. It was the connection with hearing loss that prompters researchers to take a closer look at the possibility of earlier diagnosis through a non-invasive hearing test.
“We know the vast majority of people with autism have some type of hearing problem connected to abnormalities in the brain,” says Randy Kulesza, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. “That means these issues will be present and detectable at birth.”
The recent research, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, suggests that stapedial reflex testing, also known as acoustic reflex testing, could help those with ASD receive a diagnosis and treatment from their earliest months rather than waiting several years until more commonly noticed symptoms become apparent. A stapedial reflex test measures pressure changes in the middle ear in response to sounds. It measures the reflex movement of a tiny muscle in the middle ear when a sound is heard. This movement or lack of movement in response to sound can help hearing healthcare providers determine hearing ability. Unlike the more limited standard hearing evaluations currently conducted on babies to identify hearing loss, this tests a person’s sensitivity to many frequencies.
While the study’s authors acknowledge that not every child with hearing loss will have ASD, identifying hearing loss in this way at such an early age can help medical professionals begin interventions for hearing loss and potentially ASD earlier than ever to support speech, language, social and emotional development.
While researchers continue to make strides in early diagnosis of hearing loss and Autism Spectrum Disorders, it is also important for hearing healthcare providers, friends and family to be aware of children’s development and any early signs that could indicate one of these conditions.
It stands to repeat that early diagnosis and intervention for both of these conditions is key to development.
If you believe your child is showing signs of hearing loss, schedule an appointment with us for a hearing evaluation. We can help determine if hearing impairment is present and how to treat if it is.