Some babies do not pass the first hearing screening in the hospital. A non-pass at the birth hospital does not always mean that a baby has hearing loss. This means that further evaluation is needed. Factors that can influence the newborn hearing screening can include:

  • Wax in the ear canal 
  • Fluid behind the eardrum
  • Debris in the ear
  • A blocked ear canal
  • Possible hearing loss

State law requires every infant be re-evaluated after discharge from the hospital if the infant does not pass the hospital screening in one or both ears. A re-evaluation is also needed if the infant has a risk factor for developing hearing loss.

The auditory brainstem response (ABR) evaluation is a way to measure how well each ear can pick up sounds. It also figures out how well the hearing nerve sends information to the brain. The test is commonly done on infants and small children. It is also useful for anyone who cannot or will not cooperate with routine hearing testing.

ABR testing is a painless procedure that takes one to two hours. The testing takes place in a quiet room. Small sensors will be put on the child’s forehead and behind each ear. The sensors will be attached to a special computer. Small earphones will be put in the ears. Once your child is asleep, sounds will go through the earphones. A computer will monitor brainwave activity. These waveforms are analyzed to see if the ears are detecting sounds. You will have the results the same day testing is done. Your baby will need to sleep during the testing. If your child is not able to sleep for the assessment, you may have to come back a second time. In some cases, sedation is given for children 6 months of age or older. This is so your child will be asleep for the test.

When the test is done, the audiologist will talk with you about the test results. They will share any recommendations.

Preparing For Your Visit

Testing is quicker and easier if your baby is sleeping comfortably. You know your baby best. Our goal is to have your baby sleep during the testing. Here are some tips to help prepare for the hearing test:

  • Choose an appointment time that is close to your baby’s typical naptime.
  • Bring a blanket, pacifier, extra diapers, change of clothes, bottles, and formula (if used).
  • Arrive with your baby hungry and tired, but not asleep yet. You will be able to feed the baby at the beginning of your appointment.
  • If your baby is older and stays awake after eating, it is okay to feed your baby at home before you leave.
  • Keep your baby awake for at least one hour before the appointment. If your child does fall asleep before the appointment, gently wake them.
  • If you are driving from a long distance, bring another adult to help keep the baby awake.
  • Do not bring siblings or other children to your baby’s appointment. The testing room needs to stay quiet.