By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Diagnosing autism as early as possible is crucial to early intervention. As Dr. Mallika Marshall reports, a simple, non-invasive hearing test could be a valuable tool.

Kids with autism often have problems with both language and hearing, and researchers at the University of Rochester used a technique like the one used to screen newborn babies for hearing loss to evaluate the hearing of kids ages 6 to 17.

They found a specific inner ear deficit in the kids with autism that could impact their ability to form speech.

Maria Mody, PhD, a researcher at the Lurie Center for Autism at Massachusetts General Hospital, says while more research needs to be done, this could end up being a useful tool in identifying kids at risk.

“It’s very useful because it allows you to get a quick and dirty measure of the sensitivity of the auditory system at this inner ear level and tells you if something is amiss,” says Mody. “Then we should be worried.”

Not all kids with this particular inner ear deficit will go on to develop autism but just identifying babies and young children who could be more likely to develop autism might lead to earlier diagnoses and therefore earlier intervention and treatment.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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