The Speech Banana

There are things I don't hear anymore. Some of these are bird songs, the wind in the trees on a balmy day, and rain. Also on this list are weedwackers more than a hundred meters away and the sound of my name spoken by someone who isn't looking directly at me. I don't hear music in my yoga class. I don't hear my teacher's voice.

If I put in my hearing aids I can hear these things louder than you can. Especially the weedwacker, and the music in yoga class is often louder than my teacher's voice.

I cannot communicate without my hearing aids in. But I can still hear the sound of the human voice. I can hear a few of the words, but this is not enough to follow the flow of what someone is saying. On my audiogram, there are three frequencies in which I dip into "severe" hearing loss. There are three in which I am mildly or moderately deafened. The marks on my audiogram fall just below or far below something called the speech banana. This is a gray area between 30 and 60 decibels at which speech sounds occur. I can make out some of the speech sounds and not others. When I lipread, or speechread, my imagination and experience with mouthspeech compensates for my loss of the speech banana. When I am wearing my hearing aids, I lipread very well. It's fatiguing because it requires so many different ways of paying attention, not the least of which is a kind of telepathy.

When I first heard my audiologist talk about the speech banana, I cracked up. But it was the first metaphor I'd learned pertaining to hearing loss. The other metaphor is "cookie bite" refering to the audiogram of a sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve deafness. Audiology is a very abstract science, and I am very a concrete thinker. I was grateful for the metaphors. My hope in writing about this transition is to create more metaphors about it, so losing this particular sense will make a bit more sense.


Anonymous said…
The Speech Banana does sound funny but it sure does make it easy to remember what sounds fall where in the frequency levels. When I was studying to be a speech pathologist, I really found this whole concept to be very interesting.

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