Hearing “impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits,” said study co-author Loisa Bennetto, an associate professor of clinical and social sciences in psychology.
“While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease,” Bennetto said.
If future research confirms the findings, the study authors say the screening could help identify children at risk for autism earlier and perhaps get them services sooner.
“Additionally, 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 said.
The hearing test is noninvasive, inexpensive and does not require a child to respond verbally, so it could be adapted to screen infants, the researchers said.
The study was published in the journal Autism Research.