Speech discrimination is the ability to understand speech, not just hear it. The speech discrimination ability is measured during a hearing evaluation by presenting a list of phonetically balanced words to the listener at a comfortable level. The speech discrimination score is a percentage of the number of correct words identified.
Speech discrimination can decline with age as well as with prolonged auditory deprivation. The speech discrimination score can be used to predict success with traditional amplification, or determine the need for additional assistive listening devices and/or cochlear implant. The speech discrimination score can vary from ear to ear. An asymmetric speech discrimination score may be an indicator of a retrocochlear pathology in the worse ear.