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Autism Res. 2017 Feb;10(2):337-345. doi: 10.1002/aur.1663. Epub 2016 Jul 12.

Children with autism spectrum disorder have reduced otoacoustic emissions at the 1 kHz mid-frequency region.

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Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York.
Department of Otolaryngology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York.
Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a behaviorally diagnosed disorder of early onset characterized by impairment in social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors. Some of the earliest signs of ASD involve auditory processing, and a recent study found that hearing thresholds in children with ASD in the mid-range frequencies were significantly related to receptive and expressive language measures. In addition, otoacoustic emissions have been used to detect reduced cochlear function in the presence of normal audiometric thresholds. We were interested then to know if otoacoustic emissions in children with normal audiometric thresholds would also reveal differences between children with ASD and typical developing (TD) controls in mid-frequency regions. Our objective was to specifically measure baseline afferent otoacoustic emissions (distortion-product otoacoustic emissions [DPOAEs]), transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TrOAEs), and efferent suppression, in 35 children with high-functioning ASD compared with 42 aged-matched TD controls. All participants were males 6-17 years old, with normal audiometry, and rigorously characterized via Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Children with ASD had greatly reduced DPOAE responses in the 1 kHz frequency range, yet had comparable DPOAE responses at 0.5 and 4-8 kHz regions. Furthermore, analysis of the spectral features of TrOAEs revealed significantly decreased emissions in ASD in similar frequencies. No significant differences were noted in DPOAE or TrOAE noise floors, middle ear muscle reflex activity, or efferent suppression between children with ASD and TD controls. In conclusion, attention to specific-frequency deficits using non-invasive measures of cochlear function may be important in auditory processing impairments found in ASD. Autism Res 2017, 10: 337-345.


DPOAE; TrOAE; autism; cochlea; distortion-product otoacoustic emissions; efferent suppression; middle ear muscle reflex; transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions

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