A new study found that a common test to screen newborns for hearing loss might be able to predict autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well.
Newborn Hearing Loss and Auditory Brainstem Response
The auditory brainstem response (ABR) is a simple test that is part of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening. The ABR measures how well a baby’s inner ear and brain respond to sound.
It is performed by covering the newborn’s ears with earphones that emit a series of soft clicks. Electrodes are placed on their forehead and neck to measure their brainwave activity. A computer records the responses and then compares them against predetermined response ranges.
The sounds emitted during the test are very quiet and can be performed while babies are sleeping.
The Link Between Autism and Auditory Brainstem Response
ASD is usually not able to be clinically diagnosed until a child is two or three. Previous studies have shown children with autism have slower brain responses to sound. Researchers were curious as to whether or not abnormalities in newborn ABR screenings would indicate a later link to the development of ASD.
They examined ABR data on 139,154 newborns from their Universal Newborn Hearing Screening, including 321 newborns who were later diagnosed with ASD. They found that newborns who were later diagnosed with autism also had slower brain responses to sounds.
Can Newborn Hearing Loss Screenings Diagnose Autism?
Certainly, the hope is that future studies build off of these results and may be able to one day use a test that is automatically given to millions of newborns every year to help diagnose ASD. As with most conditions, the earlier a diagnosis can be made and interventions put in place, the better the outcome will be.
However, right now the results, while encouraging, are premature in making a solid diagnosis of autism.
Continue Monitoring Your Child for Hearing Loss
ABR tests and other newborn screenings catch most hearing loss in children. However, occasionally children don’t develop symptoms until later on.
If you’ve noticed that your child struggles to follow directions, doesn’t startle from loud sounds, or is struggling with their language and vocabulary skills at WoodCreek Elementary School, schedule an appointment for a hearing test.
The sooner treatment with hearing aids is implemented, the easier it will be for your child to function in the world around them.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Today's Hearing today.