Autism and hearing loss.
A group of 199 children and adolescents (153 boys, 46 girls) with autistic disorder was audiologically evaluated. Mild to moderate hearing loss was diagnosed in 7.9% and unilateral hearing loss in 1.6% of those who could be tested appropriately. Pronounced to profound bilateral hearing loss or deafness was diagnosed in 3.5% of all cases, representing a prevalence considerably above that in the general population and comparable to the prevalence found in populations with mental retardation. Hearing deficits in autism occurred at similar rates at all levels of intellectual functioning, so it does not appear that the covariation with intellectual impairment per se can account for all of the variance of hearing deficit in autism. Hyperacusis was common, affecting 18.0% of the autism group and 0% in an age-matched nonautism comparison group. In addition, the rate of serous otitis media (23.5%) and related conductive hearing loss (18.3%) appeared to be increased in autistic disorder. The study emphasizes the need for auditory evaluation of individuals with autism in order to refer those with pronounced to profound hearing loss for aural habilitation and to follow those with mild to moderate hearing loss because of the risk of deterioration.