Curious about the Speech Banana? Discover What It Is and Why It Is Important

“Speech bananas” are not mid-day snacks for hearing specialists.The thing that the term “speech banana” represents is a particular pattern found in the results of an audiogram, which is a graphical chart used to measure someone’s hearing proficiency within a set range of frequencies and volume levels. Audiograms are typically charted with the frequency level ( in Hertz) on one the x axis and loudness level (measured in Decibels) on the other axis.

When the standard sounds of human speech – or phonemes – are plotted on this kind of audiogram, they tend to all cluster inside an region of the graph that is shaped like a banana. The spoken sounds of nearly all letters of the alphabet plus the letter combinations th, ch, sh, and ng all cluster within this area.

For those who have normal hearing, you can hear sounds inside this area, but can also hear higher-frequency sounds such as a mosquito or leaves rustling and lower-frequency sounds such as tubas or machinery. However the sounds that are most critical to our communications with other individuals are the sounds we generate when speaking. Hearing loss often strikes this speech banana area, which results in people having trouble hearing or understanding the letter combinations ch, sh, th and ng.

As a result, audiologists are most focused on hearing loss that happens within the region of the speech banana. Whether the individual is old or young, if they are having difficulty hearing sounds within that frequency and volume range, they are almost by definition having trouble hearing speech, and thus have problems communicating properly with other people.

The range of spoken sounds captured by the speech banana is so critical to communications, that many school districts mandate hearing checks using audiograms to identify hearing impairments in this region. Since this range of sounds is so essential to human communications it is the range that most hearing aids are tuned and programmed for. Irrespective of whether you presently wear hearing aids or not, contact us if you have questions about your hearing ability in the speech banana frequency and volume range.

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