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At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of this test and invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about the test and how you can help.
The Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test is a helpful tool in determining a child’s ability to hear. The test uses a special computer to measure the way the child’s hearing nerve responds to different sounds.
Three to four small stickers called "electrodes" will be placed on your child’s head and in front of his or her ears and connected to a computer. As sounds are made through the earphones, -the electrodes measure how your child’s hearing nerves respond to them.
The audiologist, or hearing specialist, looks for certain neurological "markers" as your child’s hearing nerves respond to sounds. The softest intensity or loudness level at which these markers appear roughly corresponds to the child’s hearing level in that frequency range or pitch. By reading a computer printout of your child’s responses and interpreting these markers, the audiologist can tell if your child has a hearing problem.
Babies under 6 months
The most important way to prepare your baby for the test is to show up with a tired, hungry baby. Most young babies will sleep through the entire test if they are brought to the appointment ready for a feeding and a nap. Try to keep your baby awake and hold off feeding him or her until you get to the appointment. Once you are in the testing room and your child has been prepped for the test, you can nurse or feed your baby a bottle so he or she falls asleep naturally. The test will take place while your child sleeps in your arms or in a crib, which-ever is most comfortable for you and your baby.
Children older than 6 months but younger than 7 years
Children in this age range usually need anesthesia medication in order to sleep throughout the test. When anesthesia medication is needed, there are important rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the test. If those rules are not followed, your child’s ABR test usually will be rescheduled for another day. Please follow the special rules listed under "Home Preparation for Anesthesia."
Children older than 7 years
Most children who are 7 years and older can be tested while they are awake if they relax and lie still during the test. If your child is not able to cooperate, the test might need to be rescheduled so it can be done under anesthesia.
When general anesthesia is needed, there are important rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the surgery. One business day before your child’s test, you will receive a phone call from a nurse between the hours of 1 and 9 p.m. (Nurses do not make these calls on weekends or holidays.) Please have paper and a pen ready to write down these important instructions.
For children older than 12 months:
For infants under 12 months:
For all children:
The ABR test without anesthesia is done in a special sound-treated suite in the Audiology Department at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Once you have registered at the Audiology Department, you and your child will be called to the sound-treated suite.
If your child is 7 years or older, he or she will be asked to lie still on a bed or sit in a reclining chair, and the test will begin.
If your child is under 6 months, you will be called to the sound-treated suite, where you may nurse or feed your baby a bottle so that he or she will fall asleep. Once your child is asleep, the electrodes will be placed and the testing will begin.
If your child is having anesthesia, you will register your child at the Same Day Surgery Center. You and your child will be called to meet with a nurse, who will take your child’s vital signs, weight and medical history. As the parent or legal guardian, you will be asked to sign a consent form before the sleep medication is given.
If your child did not have anesthesia medication, he or she may resume normal activities after the test.
If your child had anesthesia medication, he or she will be moved to the recovery room after the test until the medication wears off. The length of time it will take the medication to wear off will vary, as some children take longer than others to become alert.
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the audiologist needs to know about, please call the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at Children’s Hospital before the appointment and ask to speak with an audiologist. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
With myCHP, you can request appointments, review test results, and more.
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