Here’s How the BAER Hearing Test for Pets Works

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What Exactly is the BAER Test?

This serious-sounding acronym stands for “brainstem auditory evoked response.” Owners taking their dogs and cats to be tested for the first time can breathe easy.

The Fee

The price for a BAER test isn’t carved in stone. Vets have their own way of determining the fee, but owners could be looking at $300. This is a rough estimate and to be fair, many vets offer a discount for litters and some might offer a payment plan.

The Equipment

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Veterinary Neurological Center

BAER tools can seem scary. There’s a big computer in the room and an assistant walks closer with three needle-like electrodes. What the heck, right? Don’t worry, these needles are normally painlessly inserted in front of the ear being tested, on top of the head and the forehead. Finally, a headphone covers the ear to produce clicks at different frequencies.

What Happens During the Test?

The clicks draw a response from the brain. During several tests, their frequency is increased or lowered by ten decibels. This spectrum accurately finds the point at which deafness shows up. The electrodes record the brain’s reactions on the computer, which is displayed on the screen as a graph. 

The Diagnosis

The BAER test ends with three specific terms for diagnosis. A pet can be “Affected-bilateral,” meaning that it’s completely deaf. When the animal is deaf in only one ear, they’ll be graded as “Affected-unilateral.” The best one can hope for is the all-clear signal of “Unaffected.” 

Things are not always this clear cut. Pets can also have bad hearing while still being able to detect noises. They are normally adult dogs and cats that suddenly show signs of deafness. In such cases, the vet will look for blockages and infection. Finding none, the staff tests the hearing threshold. BAER is perfect for this since its decibel ladder will quickly ferret out the frequencies at which deafness starts to occur.

The Owner’s Paperwork

Example of a normal BAER Peaks are labeled sequentially with Roman numerals I VI IPL - Here's How the BAER Hearing Test for Pets Works
A normal BAER result

Once the test is completed, the computer prints the graph and a certificate. These are handed to the owner. A good vet will explain the lines on the graphs but just in case, here’s what they mean. When a pet has normal hearing, the report shows a healthy difference between the spikes and dips. These might appear less obvious when there’s some deafness involved and a flat line represents a complete hearing loss.

Can BAER Help with Deafness?

Sadly, no. This test serves a great purpose. It diagnoses deafness at an early age to prevent breeders from passing on what is often an inheritable trait. Owners of older pets can also discover why their pets suddenly ignore them. However, nothing can reverse deafness when it’s genetic or an age-related problem. 

Did You Know?

  • BAER doesn’t test the full range of animal hearing, only that of humans. In other words, a dog that’s been graded as deaf might still be able to hear high-pitched sounds.
  • Sedation is sometimes used when the pet is too perky or anxious.
  • Puppies are tested at seven weeks old and a follow-up is recommended at four months.
  • While certain dog breeds are prone to deafness, researchers struggle to understand genetic feline hearing loss. The only certainty is that white cats, especially the blue-eyed individuals, are vulnerable. 
  • Kittens can have their BAER test at eight weeks old.
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