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Preparing your child for an ABRA

What is an Auditory Brainstem Response-Based Audiological Assessment (ABRA)?

The ABRA gives information about the brain pathways for hearing. The test can be performed on patients of any age. Very young children may require sedation for the test, which is arranged by a team that includes a pediatrician and nurses (these cases are discussed with parents/caregivers before the test is scheduled). The ABRA is performed by placing electrodes on the head (forehead and behind the ears) and recording brain wave activity in response to sound. The person being tested rests quietly or sleeps while the test is performed. No participation is necessary.

Preparing your child for an ABRA

An ABRA test is a safe test to see how your child's ears are sending information to the brain. The appointment could take most of the morning or most of the afternoon.

The test requires your child to be sleeping. Some children might get medicine (sedation) to make them calm or sleepy. Come prepared to keep your child comfortable (e.g. extra diapers, extra milk or formula or food, change of clothes, blanket and/or sleeping toy, soother, etc.)

If your child is tested without sedation:

  • In the hours before the test, don't feed your baby or let your baby sleep.
  • Arrive for the test when your baby is hungry and tired but awake.
  • Your baby can sleep in their car seat/ carrier, stroller or your arms during the test.

If your child is tested with sedation:

  • You will get instructions about fasting before the test and what to do at home after the test.

Why are ABRAs Done?

ABRAs are done when a regular hearing test cannot conclude that your child has normal hearing.

How do I access this service?

If you are concerned about your child's hearing, please contact your local hospital's Audiology department.

How is an ABRA performed?

The audiologist will gently scrub behind your child's ears and forehead and place soft electrodes (small sensor stickers) on those areas. The audiologist also places small earphones in your child's ears. Sounds go through the earphones, and electrodes measure how the hearing nerves and brain respond to the sounds.

Can I stay with my child during an ABRA?

If your child is not sedated for the test, you can stay with your child.

If your child has a sedated ABRA, you might need to stay in the waiting room during the test.

What happens after an ABRA?

The audiologist will let you know how the test went and will discuss the next steps with you.

If your child was sedated, the nurse will explain what to do over the next few hours. Most sedation wears off within 1 to 2 hours.

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