"A hearing test is being hailed as a revolutionary technique to spot autism years earlier than current methods can," the Mail Online reports. The test is based on measuring how the inner ear reacts to sound.
But while the test shows promise, the headline is premature. The study the report is based on only looked at boys aged 6 to 17 years old and was not used to diagnose autism spectrum disorder. In the study, 35 boys with autism and 42 boys the same age without autism had a range of hearing tests.
The first tests measured their ability to detect sounds at different levels and frequencies. All boys had the normal range of hearing. But other tests used to measure the ear's ability to process and distinguish between similar sounds showed boys with autism had a 25% smaller processing response to sounds in the mid-range.
The researchers say this could make it hard for them to discriminate between sounds – for example, similar vowel sounds in speech. The processing tests – using a measure called oto-acoustic emissions – are regularly used to screen newborn babies.
The hope is they could also be used to look for difficulties in sound processing in line with those found in these boys with autism.