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ABR Evaluations

Kate Johnston Kate at ricochet.net
Sun Nov 10 12:20:34 EST 1996

Jeffrey Sirianni wrote:
> {Joel R. Bealer writes:}
> >Does anyone else see the problem here? Since when do we qualify
> >normal hearing with a threshold ABR? I am about 6 months removed from
> >clinical settings (now working in occupational audiology) however, as
> >I recall, all ABR recordings are repeated for the basic reason of
> >validity.
> I guess it depends on patient history (re: possible psuedohypocusis), but
> I agree that ABR results cannot be used to prove normal hearing, just as
> normal OAE results cannot prove normal hearing.

I have a question here.  I am NOT an audiologist.  I have had a severe 
hearing loss since birth however, AND I am the mother of an autistic 

When you say ABR results cannot be used to prove normal hearing, what 
exactly are you saying?  And what exactly is a 'threshold ABR'?

Before my son was diagnosed as autistic, we thought he might have a 
slight hearing loss.  Myself being hearing impaired since birth, I had 
observed him carefully, and was convinced he was not deaf, but he 
*could* be hard of hearing, like his mother.

He was given a hearing test in a soundproof booth, sitting on my lap, 
while playing with a toy.  When sounds were piped into the soundproof 
booth, he was supposed to respond by looking up, and would be 'rewarded' 
by seeing a teddy bear in the corner light up.  There were sounds that 
made *me* jump with pain that he had no response to whatsoever.

We were told our son was deaf, and when we questioned the results, the 
test was repeated, under the same conditions, with the same results.  
Because we still questioned the results, we were sent to Stanford for an 

Getting my son medicated for the ABR was traumatic for all of us, and I 
wouldn't want to wish that experience on anyone.  However, he finally 
did fall asleep, and the test was begun.  He woke up before the test was 
fully completed, but the technician said she had enough data to verify 
that he had normal hearing in both ears.

Is this different from what you are saying?  Recognizing, of course, 
that autism is different from hearing loss.  My own audiologist was 
shocked when I told her about the autism diagnosis: from her own casual 
observations of my son, she was sure he was deaf.

She did tell me, however, that the ABR doesn't test for all ranges of 
sound -- I think she said it tests for only the high-frequency sounds? 
She suggested that since my son had such a high-pitched voice, that 
maybe he wasn't hearing those sounds?  Or something like that.  This was 
almost a year ago, so I can't remember exactly.

My concern now is that my son is starting to say a lot of words, very 
few of them are clear, especially frustrating to me with my own hearing 
impairment.  He seems to be able to say 'b' words very well: button, 
balloon, bagel (which to me sounds like 'bago'), etc.

My son is 3 1/2 years old now, and if there is any possibility of any 
kind of hearing loss that can be helped, I would like to work on it.

Any suggestions?

Kate Johnston
kate at ricochet.net
Sunnyvale, California

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