Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often associated with other health conditions—and hearing loss and hyperacusis could be some of them.
Hearing Loss and Autism
Research suggests autism is more common in people with hearing loss than in people with typical hearing. One study showed that 6% of children with hearing loss also have autism, while only about 1% of children in the general population have the disorder.
People with hearing loss may exhibit similar behaviors as people with autism, including:
Lack of eye contact—Avoiding eye contact is common in people with autism. People with hearing loss may not make eye contact because they are unaware that someone is speaking to them.
Echolalia (repeating words)—People with autism repeat words as part of a behavioral pattern; people with hearing loss repeat them to clarify what’s been said.
Trouble holding a conversation—Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication is a characteristic of having autism. People who can’t hear well often mishear words or miss them entirely, causing difficulties in communicating.
Social isolation—People with autism can have a range of social interaction issues, while people with hearing loss often find it challenging to interact with friends and family since they can’t understand conversations. An inability to connect with others can lead to social isolation for both sets of individuals.
Since many of the symptoms of hearing loss and autism appear the same, it’s imperative that people with autism also get their hearing checked.
Hyperacusis and Autism
Hyperacusis, simply put, is a heightened sensitivity to everyday sounds that most people can tolerate easily. Evidence shows that around 60% of individuals with autism will experience hyperacusis in their lifetime.
A person suffering from hyperacusis may find sounds like a running dishwasher, a nearby conversation or even the shuffling of papers to be unpleasantly loud or painful. For some, the sensitivity is only to certain frequencies or pitches.
Some suffering from hyperacusis may seek relief by wearing earplugs or earmuffs. While this may help in the short term, it actually decreases the already poor tolerance of noise, increasing sensitivity in the long run. This result is most apparent immediately after removing the ear protection.
An effective treatment option is called sound desensitization. During this treatment, a specialist works with the patient and exposes them to white noise at initially a very low volume, increasing it over time to improve tolerance. This treatment may take six months to a year, or even longer for some patients.
Those who suspect they may have hyperacusis should seek an evaluation by an audiologist. A hearing specialist will conduct a full audiological evaluation, including a hearing test, and record your medical history to accurately diagnose your condition and determine your loudness discomfort levels. An audiologist can also guide your treatment and counsel you about the latest hearing solutions available.
If you’re concerned you or someone you care about may have a hearing loss, call Precision Hearing at 352-765-8008 today to schedule an appointment.