Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing

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The auditory brainstem response (ABR) is a test to see how well sound moves from the auditory nerve to the brain stem. It is used to check for hearing loss. This test is typically done on infants and children who may not be able to do other hearing tests because of their age. This test is safe. It does not hurt your child.

How to Get Ready for the Test

The ABR test will take about 2 hours. It can only be done when your child is sleeping. The best way to get your child ready for this test is to keep him or her hungry and tired right before the test. It is very important that your baby sleeps during the whole test.

  • Your child’s forehead and ears must be clean and free of any lotion or oils. This helps the stickers on the test wires (electrodes) stay on the skin to get a good reading.
  • For young infants, the test can be done while he or she sleeps naturally (without medicine). It is important to bring your child to the test sleepy and hungry. You will be able to feed your child and get him or her to sleep once you are at the test site.
  • If your child does not sleep, the test will need to be done at another time. Your child can be given medicine to go to sleep at the next test. A doctor or nurse will give the medicine. You will be able to see your child when he or she wakes up.

How the Test Is Done

  • Small stickers with wires on them, called electrodes, will be put on your child’s head and ears. The electrodes will measure the child’s brain activity.
  • A gel will be put on your child’s head and ears so the electrodes will stick.
  • Earphones will be put on your child’s ears.
  • Once your child is sleeping, sound will be played in the earphones. The brain’s response to this sound will be sent through the electrodes and recorded on the computer.
  • This test can last from 45 minutes to 2 hours.

After the Test

  • Once the test is over, the electrodes and earphones will be taken off. Small red spots may be on the skin where the electrodes were placed. These will go away quickly.
  • The test results will be read by the audiologist (aw dee ALL o jist). He or she will tell you what the results mean and talk to you about any other treatments your child needs.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing (PDF)

HH-III-120 Revised 7/16 Copyright 2011, Nationwide Children's Hospital