Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)

What is an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test?

The Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test provides both quantitative and qualitative data for doctors who want to assess the status of a patient’s brainstem pathways and auditory nerves.

ABR tests are being used for an ever broadening range of diagnostic uses from delivery rooms to operating rooms. ABR is used to screen for hearing loss beyond the cochlear (retrocochlear), universal newborn auditory screening, coma assessments, general hearing tests for conductive and sensorineural hearing conditions, assessing multiple sclerosis and is even used for choosing the best types of hearing devices.

What is it like to take an ABR test?

An ABR test is extremely easy to take. The audiologist will place electrodes on your forehead and ears. Usually, the patient is lying down in a sound booth. The audiologist will ask the patient to remain still and quiet throughout the test. In fact, the patient is encouraged to fall asleep while the test in progress. The patient will hear a series of clicks during the test which can take between one and two hours.
For young children, the audiologist may recommend sedation so that the child remains in a relaxed state through the test. Infants can be tested in a normal sleep state without sedation.

Who should have an Auditory Brainstem Response test?

There is a good chance that your child has already been tested using ABR. In North Carolina, as in most states, all newborns are tested for auditory neuropathy or neural conduction disorders. The two testing methods used are ABR or Otoacoustic Emissison (OAE).

In young children, ABR is often used for click and boneburst tests to measure hearing threshold sensitivity. In adults, an ABR test is used to evaluate the functional levels of the hearing system by testing for peak latencies. Many audiologist use ABR to fit hearing devices to adults, teens and children.The clinical use of ABR is expanding and has even been used experimentally to help diagnose types of mental illness.

When will I receive results of my ABR test?

Depending on the workload in the audiologist’s office, you may review the results immediately after the test, or usually within a day or two.