Researchers say auditory testing can identify children for autism screening

January 07, 2019

CHICAGO--January 7, 2019--A noninvasive hearing test may assist with early detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, according to research published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

The authors note a strong connection between auditory dysfunction and autism, suggesting that hearing issues identified at birth can be a clue to monitor the child for autism. Uncovering hearing issues would also improve outcomes for all children because the finding would trigger early interventions.

"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., PhD, Professor of Anatomy at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. "That means these issues will be present and detectable at birth."

Kulesza acknowledges that while the vast majority of people with autism have hearing issues, not everyone with hearing issues has autism. Still, he says early detection would benefit both groups.

"Especially early in life, the brain is very plastic, meaning the right early interventions can literally train out those deficits. The person might not be perfectly neuro-typical but such interventions can improve function," says Kulesza.

He also notes that hearing is critical to speech-language development, which in turn, also affects social-emotional development. By optimizing auditory function, the person's quality of life can be profoundly better.

Currently, newborn babies have their hearing tested. However, Kulesza says those tests merely assess whether the child can hear on a pass/fail basis. He says stapedial reflex testing provides much more information about the types of dysfunction that may be present.

Stapedial reflex testing, also known as acoustic reflex testing, measures pressure changes in the middle ear in response to sounds. It assesses a person's sensitivity and response times to a wide range of frequencies.

"Often people with autism suffer from hypersensitivity, meaning even relatively quiet sounds can feel like overwhelming noise," says Kulesza. "If parents and physicians understand that from the start, they can work to acclimate the child's sensitivity and make his or her experience of the world much less intense and frightening."

While there are clear connections between autism spectrum disorders and auditory dysfunction, Kulesza says more research is needed to understand how best to employ interventions for those who have the hearing issues.

One serious concern Kulesza shares is causing unnecessary stress to parents. He emphasizes that stapedial reflex testing should not be presented as a diagnostic tool for autism. Rather, parents should understand that testing positive for auditory dysfunction allows for tailored early intervention that will maximize their child's potential.
-end-
About The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association

The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) is the official scientific publication of the American Osteopathic Association. Edited by Robert Orenstein, DO, it is the premier scholarly peer-reviewed publication of the osteopathic medical profession. The JAOA's mission is to advance medicine through the publication of peer-reviewed osteopathic research.

Media Contact

Jeff Brennan, Media Relations Manager
312-202-8161 | jbrennan@osteopathic.org

American Osteopathic Association

Related Autism Articles from Brightsurf:

Autism-cholesterol link
Study identifies genetic link between cholesterol alterations and autism.

National Autism Indicators Report: the connection between autism and financial hardship
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute released the 2020 National Autism Indicators Report highlighting the financial challenges facing households of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including higher levels of poverty, material hardship and medical expenses.

Autism risk estimated at 3 to 5% for children whose parents have a sibling with autism
Roughly 3 to 5% of children with an aunt or uncle with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can also be expected to have ASD, compared to about 1.5% of children in the general population, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Adulthood with autism
The independence that comes with growing up can be scary for any teenager, but for young adults with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers, the transition from adolescence to adulthood can seem particularly daunting.

Brain protein mutation from child with autism causes autism-like behavioral change in mice
A de novo gene mutation that encodes a brain protein in a child with autism has been placed into the brains of mice.

Autism and theory of mind
Theory of mind, or the ability to represent other people's minds as distinct from one's own, can be difficult for people with autism.

Potential biomarker for autism
A study of young children with autism spectrum disorder published in JNeurosci reveals altered brain waves compared to typically developing children during a motor control task.

Autism often associated with multiple new mutations
Most autism cases are in families with no previous history of the disorder.

State laws requiring autism coverage by private insurers led to increases in autism care
A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that the enactment of state laws mandating coverage of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was followed by sizable increases in insurer-covered ASD care and associated spending.

Autism's gender patterns
Having one child with autism is a well-known risk factor for having another one with the same disorder, but whether and how a sibling's gender influences this risk has remained largely unknown.

Read More: Autism News and Autism Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.