New hearing test could improve autism diagnosis times for young children

A brand new hearing test could help to identify autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in very young children, a major study has revealed.

The University of Miami, who published the research, said the discovery could help speed up diagnosis times and improve outcomes for young people with the lifelong condition.

According to the paper, specialists have been aware for decades that the sensory system of adults and children with autism is different to those without autism. Until now, however, very little has been done to leverage this knowledge to improve treatments for people living with ASD.

The authors say the new test works by measuring auditory brainstem response (ABR), which gauges how well a baby’s inner ear and brain respond to sound.

The team analysed this response in nearly 140,000 auditory recordings and then matched the data to medical records. It was found that those with ASD had slower brain responses to sounds during the ABR tests.

Commenting on the study, lead author Oren Miron said: “The importance for diagnosing autism early during infant and child development, when interventions can have the most impact, cannot be overstated.

“Any additional tool that could clarify diagnostic clues would be invaluable in that regard.”

Study co-author Elizabeth Simpson added: “We’re not at the point just yet where we’re telling clinicians to use ABR testing as a determinant for autism in babies, but we are saying that this study presents a promising direction in how ABR testing can be used as a method for precise autism detection at birth.”

According to the latest statistics, autism affects around one in every 100 people, meaning there are around 700,000 individuals on the autism spectrum in the UK.

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