Is it Autism or Hearing Loss?

Typically when your child has a hearing impairment, healthcare professionals can guide the parents towards the appropriate resources and assistance. However, what happens when the hearing diagnosis is actually a precursor to another disorder, the autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? It has been estimated that up to 40 percent of children who demonstrate hearing loss also exhibit an additional disability according to the Gallaudet Research Institute. In addition, the Gallaudet Research Institute also estimated that 1 in 59 children who are deaf or have some degree of hearing loss are on the autism spectrum.

It’s not uncommon for autistic behaviors to be mistaken for a hearing impairment or vise versa, but how can you be certain? How can you differentiate between the two and know for sure; is your child suffering from hearing loss or autism, or both? In light of Autism Awareness Month, check out our list of characteristics to look out for that can help you figure out if it’s just hearing loss, or something more.

If it’s just hearing loss that is NOT related to autism:

• The child loves to be touched, enjoys giving hugs.

• The child makes eye contact.

• The child often uses their eyes to people watch.

• The child can take another person’s point of view. However, this development may be slow to develop.

• The child can feel socially isolated due to the lack of communication.

• The child often communicates with pointing or with hand gestures.

• The child often asks questions and is relatively comfortable with language.

• The child can often accept change.

• The child can often accept multi-sensory inputs at once.

If there’s hearing loss that can be related to autism:

• The child does not like to be touched or hugged.

• The child often seems “aloof” and prefers to be alone.

• The child may not sustain or make eye contact.

• The child may have a problem with taking another’s person’s point of view.

• The child becomes agitated when they are trying to communicate.

• The child may not communicate through devices, signs or facial expressions.

• The child may “echo” a person.

• The child may not understand or process language.

• The child likes to have things stay the same and often has problems handling and accepting change.

• The child has problems with multi-sensory input and may prefer to avoid certain tastes, textures, sights, sounds, and lights.

• The child shows signs of high-anxiety.

• When upset or anxious, the child often performs self-injurious acts, such as head-banging.

• The child may engage in repetitive hand gestures and odd postures.

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