No, the “speech banana” isn’t a fruit that enhances hearing nor is it related to the classic vaudeville joke that goes, “Speak up…I can’t hear you…I’ve got a banana in my ear.” The thing that the term “speech banana” refers to is a particular pattern found in the results of an audiogram, which is a graphical chart used to measure a person’s hearing abilities within a certain range of volume levels and frequencies. In an audiogram, you typically see the frequency ( in Hertz) on the x axis, and the loudness (which is measured in Decibels) on the vertical axis.

Exactly where the strange term comes from is the fact that when you examine the sounds of human language (called phonemes) on an audiogram, they have a tendency to group into a banana-shaped region of the chart. The spoken sound of all of the letters in the alphabet, except q, w, x, and y, cluster inside the speech banana, as do the widespread letter combinations ng, ch, sh and th.

People with normal hearing can also hear sounds outside this speech banana range – including higher-frequency sounds such as birds chirping or a glass breaking and lower-frequency sounds such as machinery or tubas – but the sounds most essential to human communication are the sounds of people speaking. Hearing impairment often affects this speech banana area, resulting in individuals having trouble hearing the letter combinations ng, ch, sh and th.

This is why hearing professionals are most focused on hearing loss within the range represented by the speech banana. If you’re having trouble hearing sounds within this range, regardless if you are old or young, you are probably having issues hearing people properly, and may encounter problems interacting with them.

The array of spoken sounds encompassed by the speech banana is so critical to communications, that a number of school districts require hearing checks using audiograms to detect hearing impairments in this region. The importance of this special region of sounds is also why hearing aids should be properly adjusted and tuned by a qualified hearing instrument specialist or audiologist, to ensure you can hear the sounds of human speech as clearly as possible.Irrespective of whether you presently wear hearing aids or not, we encourage you to call and get more information if you have questions about your hearing in the speech banana range.

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