What to Expect: BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) Testing

What is a BAER Test?

The University of Florida Neurology service offers hearing testing for animals, measuring the electrical activity as the brain receives the auditory stimulus of sound. We often perform this test on young puppies in breeds predisposed to congenital deafness or on breeding animals prior to their participation in a breeding program, however we can also perform this test on any animal to determine if it can hear. Puppies and kittens must be a minimum of 6 weeks of age; their hearing pathways are not fully developed before that age, so earlier testing is unreliable and not recommended.

BAER testing is a qualitative test, not quantitative. This means that we can determine whether an animal can or cannot hear in one or both ears, but cannot characterize the amount that it hears. Additionally, we are unable to determine the exact cause of the deafness using this test.

How is a BAER Test Performed?

Please ensure that the puppies are easily identifiable, either by having colored or numbered collars, or microchipped. Puppies should be contained in a carrier, crate, stroller, wagon, or other transportable device. This is both for ease of transportation as well as for their safety given their age.

BAER testing is performed by placing tubal inserts (ear plugs) that make sound (clicking or static) into both ears and small needles under the skin to record the nerve and brain responses to sounds. It takes on average 10-15 minutes per animal to complete the study. Most animals are not bothered by the insertion of the ear plugs or needles and they are held during the entire testing process.

At UF, testing is performed by a trained technician, a neurology resident (a veterinarian in a specialty training program) and a board-certified veterinary neurologist. We use a Cadwell Sierra Summit electrodiagnostic unit to perform the test. BAER testing is usually done in awake, unsedated animals, but occasionally, we do have to sedate animals in order to obtain accurate recordings. We do not sedate animals without owner consent and you will be consulted if sedation is deemed necessary for the test.

Testing is performed in the Neurology treatment area in a quiet environment. We do this on days that we do not see appointments in order to limit the exposure of our young, incompletely vaccinated patients to other animals. Additionally, we make every effort to restrict their exposure to people outside of the Neurology service in order to protect their delicate immune systems. The testing is completed away from owners in an effort to reduce stimulation during the process as this can affect the success of the testing.

What Paperwork is Provided?

After completion of the testing, you will receive a paper copy of the BAER results and an OFA submission form for each animal tested. It is your responsibility to submit this paperwork to OFA.

Unless otherwise directed, please do not feed your pet (food) after midnight on the night before his/her appointment (unless your pet is diabetic); Water is allowed (as much as desired).  Unless otherwise directed, medications can be given to your pet as prescribed.

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