Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders With A Noninvasive Hearing Test

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A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult to obtain. A medical test for diagnosis is not available, and medical personnel looks to the child’s behavior and development to make the determination. If a diagnosis of autism is being ruled out by a healthcare professional, the exam will include a hearing evaluation. The purpose of the hearing evaluation is to determine if speech and language delays are being caused by hearing problems or by the autistic disorder itself. A final diagnosis of ASD is usually not made until the child is older which delays the treatment a child needs early on. The determination is a two-step process that consists of a developmental screening and a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation.

The Problem With Early Autism Screenings

An autism diagnosis will not happen in one visit to a physician’s office. Often this is because testing is lengthy and the evaluation takes too long for a typical office visit. Healthcare professionals try to diagnose autism with the best prognosis in mind with a tendency to give development a chance. Unfortunately, this often delays effective early intervention. Because autism is a spectrum that includes a range of behaviors, non-specialists may find it difficult to recognize. However, thanks to noninvasive hearing testing, early detection, and diagnosis of autism may lead to better treatment.

A Noninvasive Hearing Test

A new study is finding that a noninvasive hearing test may be the answer to early detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. According to findings from the American Osteopathic Association, a link exists between auditory dysfunction and autism. This connection suggests that hearing problems identified at birth may be an indicator to monitor the child for autism. This research finding may lead to improving outcomes for children with autism as early detection leads to early intervention.

The majority of people with autism typically have a hearing problem due to abnormalities within the brain which is detectable at birth. Although the majority of people with autism have hearing problems, not all people with hearing problems have autism. However, early detection can address the deficits and improve function for both groups. Hearing plays a significant role in speech-language development which in turn affects social-emotional development. Because of these connections, a person’s well-being depends significantly on auditory function or lack thereof.

Testing the stapedial reflex gives information about the types of dysfunction that may be present at birth. This type of testing is a step up from the traditional newborn examination which assesses only if a child can hear or not. Stapedial reflex testing is a measurement of pressure changes in the middle ear. This pressure changes in response to different sounds enabling examiners to check a child’s response to different frequencies. The researchers emphasize that additional work is needed to understand the best way of using the interventions for those with hearing problems.

Autism is a difficult diagnosis that often takes time to obtain. Unfortunately, this delay in diagnosis decreases the chances of effective treatment. With new research and tools such as the noninvasive hearing testing, early diagnosing and treatment of autism may lead to a brighter future for autism patients.

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