Inner Ear Deficiency That Affects Speech Processing May Have Autism Link Some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have reduced otoacoustic emissions at a frequency that hinders speech processing, according to new research. Although many current identification tests for ASD rely on speech—which can be difficult when testing very young children or those who have communication delays—researchers at the University ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   November 01, 2016
Inner Ear Deficiency That Affects Speech Processing May Have Autism Link
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Balance & Balance Disorders / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   November 01, 2016
Inner Ear Deficiency That Affects Speech Processing May Have Autism Link
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, 12. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.21112016.12
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, 12. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.21112016.12
Some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have reduced otoacoustic emissions at a frequency that hinders speech processing, according to new research.
Although many current identification tests for ASD rely on speech—which can be difficult when testing very young children or those who have communication delays—researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience say their discovery of a new simple, noninvasive method of screening children for hearing deficits may give clinicians another avenue for early and effective ASD testing. The results were published in the journal Autism Research.
“Auditory impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits,” says first-listed author Loisa Bennetto, an associate professor at Rochester. “While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms.”

On average, the children with ASD had more difficulty discriminating between similar sounds in the frequency range of 1–2 kHz, which is important for speech processing, than did control participants in the same range.

The researchers tested otoacoustic emissions of 77 males ages 6 to 17 (35 with high-functioning ASD and 42 neurotypical controls) who had normal audiometric thresholds. On average, the children with ASD had more difficulty discriminating between similar sounds in the frequency range of 1–2 kHz, which is important for speech processing, than did control participants in the same range.
The degree of cochlear impairment and the severity of ASD symptoms also appeared correlated in the study.
“These findings can inform the development of approaches to correct auditory impairment with hearing aids or other devices that can improve the range of sounds the ear can process,” Bennetto says.
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November 2016
Volume 21, Issue 11