Hearing problems and autism spectrum disorders

Last update on Oct, 21, 2021

Autism spectrum disorders in children have been steadily increasing in recent years and many scholars are wondering about the possible correlation between autism and hearing problems. Let's try to understand what are the differences between these two different problems and what are the possible meeting points.

What is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can manifest itself at an early age, but it is very difficult to diagnose. There are many degrees of autism, but in the most complex forms this disorder involves problems with social relations, communication and learning difficulties, reduced sensitivity to auditory and other stimuli and a reduction in the field of interests.

In recent years, the diagnoses relating to this problem have increased, above all because awareness of the existence of this disorder has increased, which was simply not diagnosed in the past. Today it is estimated that one in 77 children suffers from autism and the data are constantly growing, the diagnosis is always earlier and can occur even before 30 months of life, the most exposed categories would seem to be males compared to females.

Autism and hearing loss in children: similarities and differences

What prompts parents to relate hearing problems to autism problems? The first warning sign is that the child does not respond when called. This behavior leads adults to believe that the child may have hearing problems and autism, but it is absolutely not certain that both of these disorders are present. To find out, it is sufficient to perform a simple hearing test, which can exclude at least the first possibility, at which point there are many other behaviors that must be observed to assess whether the child suffers from an autism spectrum disorder, and that only a team of professionals can recognize.

There are also other common factors between autism and hearing problems, which can generate confusion and make diagnosis more difficult: both diseases can induce a delay in language, more thinned social relationships and a greater desire for social isolation. Yet, the two diseases rarely coincide in the same child and when they do, the two are not closely related to each other. Rather, it was highlighted that any hearing problems in autistic children are sensorineural and concern the central nervous pathways and not the transmission system.

To conclude, it is essential to understand as soon as possible if the child has hearing problems or autism problems and to clearly distinguish the two problems: in the first case a specialist visit will be sufficient to identify any hearing loss and intervene promptly, for example with the use of hearing aids, in the second case it could a more complex clinical and therapeutic path may be necessary.

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