Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Evaluation

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Evaluation

The Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Evaluation is a test to measure how well each ear can pick up sounds. It also tells how well the hearing nerve sends the information to the brain. It is commonly done on infants and small children, or anyone who cannot cooperate with routine testing.  Most children over the age of 6 months will require some form of sedation or anesthesia in order to sleep through an ABR.

ABR testing is a harmless and painless procedure.

Common Reasons for ABR Testing

Some of the common reasons for ABR testing include:

  • The child did not pass the hearing screening at birth hospital
  • Low APGAR scores
  • Ear or brain Infections
  • Low birth weight
  • Severe jaundice
  • Family history of permanent childhood hearing loss
  • A syndrome or craniofacial anomaly associated with permanent or progressive hearing loss
  • Delayed speech or language development
  • Exposure to medications that may cause hearing loss
  • Parental or caregiver concern

During a Sedated ABR Test

An audiologist performs the ABR while the child is sedated or under anesthesia.  The child is closely watched by a nurse and anesthesiology staff during the ABR.  Sedation/anesthesia is used because the child must stay asleep for the ABR.  Once the child is asleep, the audiologist gently cleans the skin on their forehead and behind each ear and small sensors are placed on those areas.  The audiologist sends sounds through the earphones and the sensors measure the brain’s response to those sounds.  These responses are analyzed by the audiologist to see whether the ears are detecting the sound.

The child is awakened when the test is finished. The audiologist will discuss the test results and any recommendations.

During an ABR Test

An audiologist, a professional who specializes in the diagnosis and management of hearing and balance disorders, performs the test.

During the evaluation, the caregiver may hold the child in their arms or have the child rest on a bed. The audiologist will gently clean the skin on the child’s forehead and behind each ear. Small sensors are placed on those areas and the sensors are then attached to a computer. Small earphones are placed over the ears once the child falls asleep or is very still and quiet. The audiologist sends sounds through the earphones and the sensors measure the brain’s response to those sounds. These responses are analyzed to see whether the ears are detecting sounds. 

The child is awakened when the test is finished. The audiologist will discuss the test results and any recommendations.

Preparing Your Child for an ABR Test

For the child’s safety, their stomach must be empty before getting sedation or anesthesia.  A nurse will usually call 2-3 days before the appointment to discuss the eating and drinking instructions. The nurse will also let you know what your child can eat and drink in the hours before the test. 

Preparing for an ABR Test

The child is asleep for the test. To make sure your child is able to sleep during the test, do not allow them to sleep two to four hours before the test.  Avoid giving your child any caffeine, including chocolate and cola drinks, for at least 12 hours before testing. 

Last Updated 07/2016

Contact us.

Ask a question, request an appointment, refer a patient or place an order for a procedure in the Division of Audiology at Cincinnati Children’s.