By Teresa Conrick
You may also notice that Megan is the only child who is visibly fearful, fingers in her ears, crying and exceptionally pale. This is not only a snapshot of my daughter's history, our painful history with autism, but a very possible snapshot of yet another piece of the mercury-melanin connection. In 1999, Megan began to wear construction headphones as she could not tolerate the noises of the world. Today, in the midst of the autism epidemic, they are called "noise reducing" headphones and are available all over the internet for children specifically with an autism diagnosis.
Noise and hearing issues are not new to autism. From Dr. Leo Kanner, the first report EVER of a novel and unique condition, "Autistic Disturbances Of Affective Contact" written in 1943
How many mothers and fathers since 1940 have said the same thing? That their child regressed, stopped developing language and stopped responding to others' words? Megan did. "Bubbles" became "emuls", a nonsense word that should have been a clue to her losing hearing and sensory stability. Instead I was told that she had "autism" and that was that. She then became almost mute except for crying and pained utterances when she was scared or frustrated, which was often. How horrible to see your child in agony at age 2, crying because a Muppet on Sesame Street is playing a cello, beautiful sounds to most but tortuous for her fragile ears. Others thought she was becoming deaf as she did not respond to her name.
As most know now from reading Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill's unprecedented, historical book on autism's roots in, "The Age Of Autism, Mercury, Medicine, And A Man-made Epidemic", "Richard M's" father, William Dykstra Miller, was one of the first to be exposed to an ethyl mercury fungicide, as a Ph.D in Forestry.
"Student and Sohmer (1978) stated that all of the autistic children they studied had peripheral hearing loss according to auditory brainstem response (ABR) examination. Skoff and his group (Skoff, Mirsky, & Turner, 1980; Skoff et al., 1986) reported that 44-63% of children with autism examined by them had hearing impairment."
Auditory Processing Disorder as a Key Feature of Autism HERE
"Delacato (1974) documented how a child could be unresponsive to certain sounds (act as-if deaf), but have an exaggerated response to other sounds. Dr. Bernard Rimland (1964) indicated that his research found 40% of people with autism to suffer from hyper-processing of the auditory stimuli, or ‘hyperacusis’. From accounts, it appears that this hyper-hearing leads to social withdrawal, speech problems, and overload behaviour in the form of tantrums and aggression."
This research describes my daughter, but why would Megan be so affected? She is a red head and very fair skinned. I have previously described her eye color change later in her life, so is there a connection to melanin and her many extreme sensory issues? How is melanin related to hearing? From Wiki:
"In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of skin color. It is also found in hair, the pigmented tissue underlying the iris of the eye and the stria vascularis of the inner ear."
Cochlear Pathology Following Exposure To Mercury HERE
"The sensory and secretory epithelia may become morphologically changed following the exposure to mercury chloride. The earliest and most severe change in the sensory epithelium appeared in the apical part of the cochlea, while the basal coils were only seldom damaged (cytocochleogram studies). Acute intoxication mostly affected both afferent and efferent nerve terminals and the hair cells, while chronic poisoning could also damage the stria vascularis.
Environmental Impact on Hearing: Is Anyone Listening? HERE
"Mercury . Mercury intoxication causes hearing loss in humans and animals. In 1953, a severe neurological disorder was recognized among persons living in the vicinity of Minamata, Japan, where mercury-containing effluent flowing from a chemical manufacturing plant into the local bay contaminated shellfish. Deterioration in hearing and deafness were reported among other neurological symptoms. Early stages of poisoning may result in cochlear lesions, whereas hearing loss in the late stages of intoxication may result from neurological damage."
Encyclopaedia of occupational health and safety, (HERE) "Hearing loss is described as a common part of the clinical picture in acute and chronic methyl-mercury poisoning. Both cochlear and post-cochlear lesions have been involved. Inorganic mercury may also affect the auditory system, probably through damage to cochlear structures."
Now a look at autism and its auditory dysfunctions
Autism and auditory brain stem responses HERE
"To study a controversy that has been discussed for more than two decades: whether or not children with autism have abnormalities affecting the cochlear nerve or the auditory pathway in the brain stem and, if so, to describe these abnormalities. ...The individual test results showed that more than half of this normal-hearing autistic disorder group (58%) had abnormalities of one or more of eight ABR (auditory brain stem responses) parameters studied.
Brain stem lesion, occult cochlear dysfunction, and involvement of the cochlear efferent system are probable factors that can explain the ABR findings"
And related back to mercury
Introduction to neurobehavioral toxicology: food and environment HERE
"The ototoxic effects by mercury differ from the effects by many other compunds like aminoglycoside antibiotics and cis-platinum by causing the most severe damage to the apical cords of the cochlea related to low-frequency hearing"......."In addition degenerations of efferent and afferent nerve endings were found as well as vacuolization of marginal cells in the stria vascularis."
More specifically to Ethyl Mercury/Thimerosal:
More digging brought me to an interesting connection to autism and again, back to mercury.
Very interesting connections. It is similar to the studies connecting melanin, mercury and the pigmented epithelium of the eye that I reported when examining information on Megan's eye color change. I am not endorsing AIT, though I know it can help. Megan has done modified versions through school and any benefits were not visible for very long but she is extremely affected so it is possible that this is an avenue of hope that may be of benefit as a long term treatment. In addition, it may be a glimpse of how melanin and mercury could interact within the auditory system.
Is it possible that the cats of Minamata were the canaries to that disease similar to the fair redheads of autism?
"Whilst writing this, I had a deaf and dumb child sent to me by an eminent physician. The child heard perfectly until it was more than twelve months old, when an eruptive disease took place on its head. A medical man, who resides in the neighbourhood of the child's home, about ten miles from town, applied mercurial ointment, which cured the eruption very speedily, but left the child totally deaf. I have seen several cases of a similar description, in which mercury applied to the head produced the same effect."......As to the general abuse, or injudicious use of mercury, there can be no doubt but it is the cause of the great increase of deafness, noises in the head, blindness, paralysis, apoplexy, and madness."
Teresa Conrick is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.