What is the speech banana? 

Audiologists use the speech banana as a visual to represent a person’s hearing loss. Hearing difficulty within the ‘banana’ can have an impact on speech and language.

Speech Banana
Audiogram of familiar sounds showing the “speech banana”

An audiogram is a graph displaying hearing based on pitch (frequency) and loudness (intensity). Audiologists test an individual’s hearing and plot it on the audiogram. The majority of human speech sounds (called phonemes) fall on an audiogram in a shape like a banana. Audiologists and speech and language pathologists are most concerned with hearing loss within the ‘speech banana’. Hearing loss at these frequencies can have a profound impact on a child’s speech and language development.

The impact of hearing loss on development: 

Children learn language and speech by hearing it used. This means that a mild hearing loss can have an impact on speech and language development. Below are potential areas affected by hearing loss:

Language Development

  • Children with hearing loss may have difficulty using smaller parts of speech. Examples of this are articles (a, the) and word endings (ex. plural -s, past tense -ed) 

  • Children with hearing loss tend to have more success learning concrete words such as cat or jump and have more difficulty with learning abstract words such as before or shy.

Speech Sound Production

  • Hearing loss makes it harder for children to hear themselves when they talk, which can lead to difficulty regulating volume and pitch.

  • Depending on the degree of hearing loss, children may not use certain sounds (ex. s, sh, t, f, k) as these sounds are harder to hear. If they are unable to hear these sounds, they will have difficulty producing them.

Social Skills

  • Hearing loss can make it harder for a child to engage in peer interactions.

  • This can lead to feeling lonely or feeling that it is harder to make friends.

What can be done?

If you suspect your child has hearing loss, speak to your pediatrician. They can refer you to an audiologist who will test your child’s hearing. If there are areas of concern within the speech banana, your audiologist can refer your child for speech therapy. 

Don’t hesitate to seek a professional opinion regarding your child’s hearing. Evidence shows that early intervention leads to better outcomes with speech and language development, social skills, and academic success.

Cocoa Berry
Author: Cocoa Berry