No, the “speech banana” isn’t a super fruit that enhances hearing nor is it a reference to that classic vaudeville comic skit that goes, “Speak up…I can’t hear you…I’ve got a banana in my ear.” The “speech banana” is a distinctive pattern depicted on an audiogram. Audiograms are graphs of sound frequency (on the horizontal axis) and decibels (on the vertical axis). In a hearing test, each test sound is characterized by its volume and frequency and can be graphed to create a chart.
When the common sounds of human speech are charted on this kind of audiogram, they have a tendency to all cluster within an area of the graph that is shaped like a banana. The spoken sounds of nearly all letters of the alphabet plus the letter combinations ch, sh, th and ng all cluster in this particular area.
The speech banana is extremely important because it includes nearly all of the sounds of human speech which is essential for our ability to communicate with one another. Individuals with normal hearing, can also hear lots of sounds outside the speech banana such as low frequency tubas or high frequency leaves rustling. Individuals with hearing loss often have difficulty hearing certain vowels and the letter combinations th, ch, sh, and ng.
Consequently, hearing specialist are most concerned with hearing loss that develops within the range of the speech banana. If you are having trouble hearing sounds inside this area, whether you are young or old, you are probably having difficulty hearing people properly, and may have difficulties conversing with them.
The range of spoken sounds encompassed by the speech banana is so critical to communications, that many school districts require hearing checks using audiograms to identify hearing losses in this region. Since this range of sounds is so vital to communications it is the range that most hearing aids are adjusted and programmed for. Make certain you don’t miss out on any of the human speech in your daily life by requesting a hearing evaluation and audiogram if you think you may have an issue.