To begin with an attempt at weak humor, the “speech banana” is not related to the old skit, “Speak up…I can’t hear you…I’ve got a banana in my ear.” The thing that the “speech banana” represents is a distinct pattern found in the results of an audiogram, which is a graphical representation of an individual’s hearing abilities inside a set range of volume levels and frequencies. In an audiogram, you generally see the frequency level of the sound (which is measured in Hertz) on the x axis, and the loudness (measured in Decibels) on the y axis.
The term ‘speech banana’ comes from the banana-shaped collection of dots on the audiogram that is produced when human speech is analyzed. Nearly the entire alphabet and most letter combinations (such as ch, sh, th and ng) fall into the speech banana range on an audiogram. The primary exceptions are the letters w, x, y and q.
The speech banana is extremely important because it includes nearly all of the sounds of human language which is essential for our communications with each other. Individuals with normal hearing, can hear lots of sounds outside the banana such as high frequency glass breaking or low frequency fog horns. Hearing loss often strikes this speech banana area, resulting in people having trouble hearing the letter combinations ch, sh, th and ng.
This is the reason hearing instrument specialists are most focused on hearing loss inside the range represented by the speech banana. Irrespective of whether the person is young or old, if they’re having difficulty hearing sounds inside that frequency and volume range, they are almost definitively having difficulty hearing speech, and thus have problems communicating effectively with other people.
The speech banana is considered so crucial to healthy hearing that many school districts have required audiograms for their students so that they can detect and address hearing impairments early that may be impacting their ability to communicate. The significance of this particular range of sounds is also why – if you use hearing aids – you should have them properly adjusted and tuned by a professional hearing instrument specialist or hearing instrument specialist, to ensure you can hear the sounds of speech as clearly as possible.If you have any concerns about your hearing in the speech banana range – with or without hearing aids – feel free to call and ask us about it.