Recently I have learned of two local children who at around 2-3 years of age were diagnosed with Autism. They demonstrated a lack of interest in what was going on around them, they would hit and lash out when frustrated, and had a lack of social skills. Thanks to the persistance of one of the moms they had the child's hearing checked, and they actually had a moderate to severe hearing loss. Once the child received hearing aids, the behavior immediately changed. This smart mom had a friend whose child received the same diagnosis, and she immediately asked if the child's hearing had been tested- No. Same exact situation.
I guess this caught my attention because when Delaney was just shy of 3, we were struggling to figure out why she was *so* speech delayed. She was diagnosed with developmental delay/speech delay due to unknown cause. I pushed the issue and asked for a hearing screen- Moderate to profound hearing loss. Much easier to treat when you know the underlying cause. I wonder how many older children w/ progressive hearing loss are *not* being caught by the newborn screening process, and if we need to routinely re-test children who are being diagnosed with general speech delay, autism, etc. We lost 9 months with Delaney due to incorrect diagnosis (or let's call it incomplete diagnosis- they were correct in that she suffered from a severe speech delay, but there was a cause that needed to be addressed.
I don't want to point the finger at Pediatricians because I don't believe they are expected to be experts on hearing loss. But, rather than grasp at the first diagnosis that fits, maybe a simple OAE screening test could be recommended to rule out hearing as a cause, and then move forward to whatever specialist is recommended. Any thoughts?