Uncovering the Speech Banana

Contra Costa Hearing Blog

Sadly, the “speech banana” isn’t a super fruit that enhances hearing nor is it a reference to the old joke that goes, “Speak up…I can’t hear you…I’ve got a banana in my ear.” What the “speech banana” refers to is a particular pattern shown in the results of an audiogram, which is a graphical representation of someone’s hearing acuity inside a particular range of frequencies and volume levels. Audiograms are plots of frequency (on the x axis) and loudness (on the y axis). In a hearing test, each test sound is defined by its volume and frequency and can be plotted to create a chart.

The term ‘speech banana’ comes from the banana-shaped collection of points on the audiogram that arises when human speech is examined. The spoken sounds of nearly all letters of the alphabet together with the letter combinations ch, sh, th and ng all cluster in this particular area.

The speech banana is extremely important because it encompasses most of the sounds of human speech which is necessary for our communications with one another. People with normal hearing, can hear lots of sounds outside the speech banana such as low frequency fog horns or high frequency glass breaking. People with hearing problems often have trouble hearing specific vowels and the letter combinations ng, th, sh and ch.

Consequently, hearing instrument specialist are most concerned with hearing loss that happens within the area of the speech banana. If you’re having difficulty hearing sounds within this range, regardless if you are old or young, you are most likely having difficulty hearing people properly, and may encounter trouble interacting with them.

The range of spoken sounds captured by the speech banana is so critical to communications, that many school districts mandate hearing tests using audiograms to identify hearing losses in this region. The significance of this particular range of sounds is an additional reason why – if you use hearing aids – you need to have them properly tuned and programmed by a professional hearing instrument specialist or hearing instrument specialist, to ensure you can hear the sounds of human speech clearly.Whether you currently wear hearing aids or not, give us a call if you have questions about your hearing ability in the critical speech banana frequency and volume range.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.