An auditory brainstem response (ABR) is a measure of nerve responses in the auditory system to estimate hearing levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

My baby is scheduled for an Auditory Brainstem Response at Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center. What steps should I take to prepare for this?
If you have scheduled a non-sedated ABR evaluation for your infant at our clinic, here are tips to prepare for a successful evaluation:

  • Delay feeding your baby before the appointment. You will be able to feed him/her after arriving, which will help your baby sleep during testing.
  • Keep your baby awake on the way to clinic. If possible, arrange for another adult to travel with you so you can keep the baby awake in the car.
  • Bring 1-2 blankets to the appointment for wrapping your baby for a nap. If s/he  sleeps in a swaddler, please bring this along as well. Feel free to bring any toys or pillows that commonly help your baby sleep. The evaluation is typically completed with the baby in the caregiver’s arms.

How long will an ABR evaluation take?
The length of an ABR test is approximately 1-2 hours; however, more time may be necessary for pediatric visits in order for your child to fall asleep. Older children and adults often can remain still enough while undergoing a non-sedated ABR to obtain accurate readings.

Why are some ABRs sedated?
If reliable measurements cannot be completed, a referral may be made to have the measurement completed under sedation at the Diagnostic Audiology Clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). This sedated procedure is commonly scheduled for 4 hours, which includes additional time for your child to recovery from light anesthesia.

Only non-sedated ABRs are performed at Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic.

What kinds of hearing problems are identified through an ABR?
ABRs test for the amount and timing of responses by the hearing nerve to sound. Activity of the hearing nerve occurs only after sound has travelled through all systems within the ear, meaning any pathologies at the level of the ear resulting in elevated hearing thresholds will be reflected by amount of nerve activity on the ABR.

ABR hearing thresholds are related to hearing thresholds obtained in a conventional hearing evaluation, and because of this relationship, ABR responses are a valid diagnostic measure. ABRs thresholds can be used to fit hearing aids.

How soon will ABR results be ready?
Your audiologist will interpret the ABR results at the end of the evaluation, conclude if results indicate a hearing problem, and provide recommendations if a hearing problem is present.