Hypersensitivity, hearing problems could lead to early autism diagnosis

3-26-2019 newssensoryprocessing
Image: Nick Ogonosky

Many individuals with autism have hearing problems. In fact, Leo Kanner included this trait in his original description of autism.

The type and severity of these problems vary: Some autistic people are hypersensitive to sound, such that a doorbell can trigger intense fear or panic; others have difficulty attending to conversations when there is background noise.

My lab is building on this important work to understand how the structure and function of the brainstem and auditory system is altered in autistic people. We believe these studies may provide insight into the neurobiology of autism and may even pave the way to newborn screening and early diagnosis for the condition.

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Related article:  Understanding environmental risk factors for autism: What's real and what's not

We found that children with autism have a lower threshold — meaning they respond to a quieter sound — for the stapedial reflex than neurotypical children do. This finding is consistent with reports that some autistic children are hypersensitive to sounds.

We believe we can use these differences to screen for autism and potentially diagnose the condition before other traits, such as communication problems, appear. To that end, we are evaluating the sensitivity of such a screen in newborns.

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Read full, original post: Hearing problems hint at potential for early autism screening

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