Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing

What is Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing?

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing, also known as Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) testing and Auditory Evoked Response testing, is a test requiring specialized equipment that measures the electrical activity in the brainstem after the presentation of a signal.

The test is utilized in the threshold assessment of hard-to-test individuals and to evaluate the integrity of the brainstem pathways.

What are the advantages of using auditory brainstem response (ABR) screening for testing neonates?

  • ABR testing can be performed on newborns, even those who are asleep or sedated.
  • ABR testing is a non-invasive test that does not cause any pain or discomfort to the newborn.
  • ABR testing can provide information about the hearing of a newborn even before they are old enough to participate in other hearing tests, such as behavioral audiometry.

How is ABR measured?

ABR testing uses electrodes that are placed on the scalp to measure the electrical activity in the brainstem. A series of clicks or tones are presented to the ear, and the audiologist records the electrical responses from the brainstem. The responses are then displayed on a computer screen as a series of waves.

What is the purpose of an ABR test?

An ABR test can be used to:

  • Screen newborns for hearing loss.
  • Diagnose hearing loss in children and adults.
  • Assess the severity of hearing loss.
  • Monitor the progression of hearing loss over time.
  • Evaluate the integrity of the brainstem pathways.

What is a normal ABR test result?

A normal ABR test result shows five waves in each ear. The waves are numbered 1 to 5, with wave 1 being the first wave to appear and wave 5 being the last wave to appear. The amplitude (size) and latency (time) of the waves are also measured.

If any of the waves are absent or if the amplitudes or latencies are abnormal, it may indicate hearing loss or a problem with the brainstem pathways.

Is ABR Testing painful?

ABR testing is a safe and painless test. The results of an ABR test are usually available within a few minutes.

Can ABR Testing replace behavioral audiometry?

ABR testing is not a substitute for behavioral audiometry. Behavioral audiometry is a more accurate test of hearing, but it cannot be performed on newborns or young children.


If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, you should talk to your doctor about ABR testing.