Can common newborn hearing tests be used to screen for autism?



US researchers have flagged up the links between hearing dysfunction and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), claiming that early audiological screening could also screen for autism.

Children suffering from ASD are not usually identified until speech testing can be efficiently carried out on them when they reach the age of four. But a comprehensive literature review by researchers at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania is behind their belief that routine non-invasive screening of cochlear and auditory brainstem function in the newborn can, in a high number of cases, also show up ASD.

In a paper published by The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the review authors make a detailed case of the links between auditory dysfunction and autism, arguing that these issues will be present and detectable at birth, and concluding that "future research should be focused on non-invasive, objective testing of auditory function to screen for ASD"

"At the very least, auditory function could be used to raise suspicion of ASD or identify children at high risk of ASD manifesting later in life," reads the paper.

Early detection means benefits for child development. If hearing disorders are found, then children receive treatment for their hearing disorders, which would benefit any child at risk of developing autism, the authors say: "There is also evidence that auditory integration training normalizes brainstem responses in children with ASD and even improves behaviours."

Source: The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association