Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing

The ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) test can be used to detect hearing loss. It checks your child’s brain’s response to sound. The test is mostly done on infants and children who may not be able to respond to behavioral hearing tests because of their age. Your child will not feel anything during this test.

How is the test done?

The test can only be done when your child is sleeping.

Small electrodes (sensors that measure brain activity) will be placed on your child’s forehead and earlobes or mastoid bone, and earphones will be placed over his or her ears.
An electrode gel will be used on your child’s head and ears so that there is good contact between the skin and the electrodes.

Once your child is sleeping, sound will be played through the earphones. His or her brain’s response to this sound will be recorded through the electrodes and recorded on the computer.

What’s the difference between a sedated ABR and unsedated ABR hearing test?

A sedated ABR hearing test means special medicine helps your child sleep through the test; an unsedated test means your child is naturally sleeping through it.

An unsedated hearing testing is typically done on newborns to 5 months of age. At approximately 6 months of age, children do not sleep as soundly and it becomes difficult to obtain the amount of information necessary. A sedated ABR hearing test is typically done then.

How should I prepare my child for the test?

Your child’s head and ears must be clean and free of any lotion or oils so the small electrodes will have good contact and stick well.

If your child is older than 6 months of age, he or she will get medicine to sedate or calm them for the ABR test. A doctor or nurse will give him or her medicine, and the test will be administered. You will be able to see your child as he or she is waking up.

If your child is under 6 months of age, the ABR test can be done while he or she is sleeping naturally (without medicine). It is important to bring the child to the appointment sleepy and hungry. You will have time to feed your child and get him or her asleep during the appointment.

How long is the test?

This test can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

What happens after the test?

Once the test is finished, the electrodes and earphones will be taken off. Small red spots may appear where the electrodes were placed. These will go away quickly. The test results will be read by the audiologist. Once these are read, the audiologist will tell you what the results mean and talk to you about any other treatments your child may need. 

Why is it important to have your child’s hearing tested by a pediatric audiologist?

Pediatric audiologists are specially trained clinicians who have expertise in working with children, specifically identifying hearing loss in children. A pediatric audiologist will be able to decide which tests are important to do, and complete them with accuracy and efficiency. If a hearing loss is identified, the pediatric audiologist will give you information about hearing loss, communication options and resources.

ABR Testing
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