The term “speech banana” brings a lot of funny images to mind, for instance a banana-shaped listening device, but that would be incorrect.The “speech banana” is a specific design depicted on an audiogram. Audiograms are graphs of sound frequency (on the x axis) and decibels (on the vertical axis). During a hearing check, each test sound is defined by its frequency and volume and can be plotted on a chart.

The phrase ‘speech banana’ comes from the banana-shaped cluster of dots on the audiogram that is produced when human language is examined. Nearly the whole alphabet and the majority of letter combinations (such as ng, ch, sh and th) fall into the speech banana range. The principal exceptions are the letters q, w, x, and y.

If you have normal hearing, you can hear sounds within this range, but can also hear higher-frequency sounds such as a mosquito or a glass breaking and lower-frequency sounds such as a fog horn or tubas. However the sounds that are most vital to our communications with other individuals are the sounds we produce when talking. It is extremely common for individuals to have difficulty hearing or understanding letter combinations such as th, ch, sh, and ng and specific vowels.

When loss of hearing affects the frequencies and volumes within the speech banana it interferes with person-to-person communications. For this reason hearing professionals will normally concentrate on that range. If you’re having trouble hearing sounds within this area, whether you are young or old, you are most likely having difficulty hearing people properly, and may encounter trouble communicating with them.

That is one of the reasons why hearing tests using audiograms are mandated in the schools of several states – to identify possible hearing problems early in life, when they can be more easily corrected. The importance of this special range of sounds is an additional reason why – if you use hearing aids – you need to have them properly adjusted and tuned by a professional hearing specialist or audiologist, to ensure you can hear the sounds of speech clearly.In case you have any concerns about your ability to hear in the speech banana range – with or without hearing aids – call us.