HealthDay News — A simple hearing test may help identify young children at risk for autism before they’re old enough to speak, according to a study published online July 12 in Autism Research.

“This study identifies a simple, safe, and noninvasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with autism,” study coauthor Anne Luebke, PhD, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said in a university news release. “This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes.”

Luebke and colleagues tested the hearing of children between ages 6 and 17 with and without autism. Those with autism had hearing difficulty in a specific frequency (1 to 2 kHz) important for processing speech. The degree of hearing impairment was associated with the severity of autism symptoms.

“Auditory impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits,” study coauthor Loisa Bennetto, PhD, also of the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in the news release. “While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease.”

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