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Brain stem evoked response test

What is a brainstem evoked response (BSER) test?

This is a way of checking hearing that can be used on anybody from babies to adults.

Babies and young children need to be asleep for the test. Older children must lie very still, or the test will not work.

Ideally, we recommend you arrive at the appointment with your young child awake but ready for a sleep.

What exactly does it involve?

Sticky pads (electrodes) will be placed on their head. 1 behind each ear and 2 on the forehead. These are then connected to the BSER equipment and a headphone is placed over each ear in and sounds will be played. They will be some loud and some quiet sounds played. Any response is recorded on the screen as a waveform.

The audiologist will explain the test in more detail at the appointment.

Does it hurt?

No. In order for the electrodes to be attached, your child’s skin needs to be prepared. Their skin will be rubbed with an exfoliating scrub which may feel a little uncomfortable. This will remove any surface oils and dead skin cells which will help us get a clearer response.

What can I do to prepare my child for this test?

The test will not work unless your child is asleep or laying very still.

It is important that your child arrives awake yet tired, so that they are ready to go to sleep as soon as the preparations are complete. Try not to let them fall asleep on the journey to the hospital.

Please feel free to bring with you anything that you think might help your child to get to sleep. This may include a drink, (which we can warm if necessary) dummy, cuddly toy or favourite blanket and so on.

What happens if my child cannot sleep during the session?

We usually do manage to get children to sleep even if it means going for a walk in the park once all preparations are done. However on some occasions we may need to bring you back for another appointment.

How long will the test take?

We allow up to 1 hour and a half for each of these appointments. Most of the time allocated is taken up with preparation and getting children to sleep. The test itself usually takes about half an hour.

Will I know the results straight away?

Yes. We can usually tell you the results if they are clear. Sometimes the waveforms on the screen are not very clear which can because the background noise levels are too high.

The tests will be reviewed by a another audiologist after the test is completed. If any changes are made to the results, we will explain this to you at the time.

What happens if my child has hearing loss?

The next step would be to try to find out what is the cause of the hearing loss.

It could be a temporary problem which might be fluid in the middle ear. This is known as a conductive hearing loss. In these cases, we will check your child’s hearing again in a few months. We might ask for an opinion from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultant.

If the results suggest a more permanent hearing problem involving the inner ear or the hearing nerve then you will need to attend an appointment with a specialist doctor in medical audiology. This is can be sensorineural hearing loss.

If my child has ‘normal’ hearing, will they need any further hearing checks?

The audiologist will talk to you about the best way course of management for your child.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us on 0114 271 450 or 0114 271 460 or email us on scn-tr.audiology@nhs.net

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: AUD5

Resource Type: Article

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For further information please contact on ;

Email: scn-tr.audiology@nhs.net

Tel: 0114 2717450/60


Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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