Universal newborn hearing screenings test millions of infants for hearing loss every year. In the near future, they may be able to help diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ADS) as well.
What is an Auditory Brainstem Response Test?
The auditory brainstem response (ABR) is one part of newborn hearing screenings. It measures how well a baby’s inner ear and brain respond to sound.
Doctors perform the ABR test by covering a newborn’s ears with earphones that emit a series of soft clicks. Electrodes are also placed on the baby’s forehead and neck to measure their brainwave activity as they listen to the sounds. A computer records the responses and compares them against average response ranges.
Link Between Autism and the Way the Brain Responds to Sound
Previous research has determined that children with ASD have slow brain responses to sound. However, most children aren’t diagnosed with autism until they are at least three or four years old using different testing methods, including tests that check their response to sound.
In 2020, researchers decided to examine ABR testing scores at birth to see if they would show a link between slower responses and children who later developed ASD.
They looked at ABR data on 139,154 newborns from their Universal Newborn Hearing Screening, including 321 newborns who were later diagnosed with ASD. The data showed that newborns who were later diagnosed with autism also had slower brain responses to sounds.
The hope is that future studies will be able to use these findings to help predict the risk of ASD and develop methods for earlier intervention.
The Importance of Hearing Loss Testing in Children
While these findings are exciting, the benefits of newborn hearing testing are already substantial. Catching hearing loss in children early and being able to treat it with hearing aids or cochlear implants helps children avoid delays in speech and language skills that often come with untreated hearing loss.
Because there are certain genetic conditions or illnesses that can cause hearing loss to appear later for children, it’s important to take note of any signs that your child is struggling to hear. Depending on their age, these signs may include, but are not limited to:
- Not reacting to loud sounds or recognizing your voice
- Slower to begin speaking and putting sentences together
- Trouble learning to read
- Falling behind in class at Pine Street Elementary School
If you would like to speak with a specialist or make an appointment for your child to be evaluated, call Spartanburg | Greer ENT & Allergy today.