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Aided Thresholds and Speech Sounds on an Audiogram

Along with representing your levels of hearing loss an audiogram can also show where your hearing lies when wearing your hearing technology. The levels of hearing that you achieve when wearing hearing aids, cochlear implants or bone conducting hearing implants are called ‘aided thresholds’. They are also sometimes referred to as ‘functional gain’. This simply means when wearing your hearing aids what are the softest sounds that you are able to hear. However it is worth remembering that these represent:

  1. The quietest sounds detected when presented in the quiet environment of an audiology clinic.
  2. The quietest sounds detected when the hearing aid or cochlear implant is set to a particular gain or programme at the time of testing

Aided thresholds is important information to know if you are working with children who are wearing hearing technology as gives you an idea of what hearing levels are like when their technology is working. Another set of measurements that also measures what hearing thresholds are like with hearing technology in place used special insert probes into the ear and are called real ear measures or REMS. If you would like to find out more on this, pleas follow this link which will bring you to the Interacoustics website, where their Academy has some useful materials around the topic, one being a beginners guide to real ear measures, available to dowload on this Interacoustics website page.

Please visit this First Years website page to see how aided thresholds are represented on an audiogram (source for diagrams: First Years).

Symbol for aided audiogram, representing the hearing level with amplification with hearing aids (A) or cochlear implants (C or CI).

Speech Sounds represented on an audiogram

Representing speech sounds on an audiogram is useful. It visually represents the different qualities of speech sounds. This area of the audiogram is typically referred to as the speech banana. It has been put on the audiogram below, you will see a range of vowels and consonant sounds placed on in speech banana according to their sound qualities. For example:

  • Some of the consonant sounds e.g. f, s, th, lie towards the top, right of the chart. This is because they are higher in pitch and are also softer in volume.
  • Vowel sounds  e.g. e, u, are placed towards the middle or right and further from the top. This tells us they are more mid or low pitched and louder.

It is the goal of hearing technology to give people access to all these sounds in the area of the speech banana.

Please visit this Clearly Hearing website page for a good explanation of speech sounds on an audiogram, and for a bit more detail about the qualities of the various speech sounds - speech acoustics, please visit this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website page.