Cochlear implants (CI) can partially restore hearing by transmitting frequency specific envelope information to the auditory nerve. Generally, in post-lingual adults with well-developed aural language skills, CIs are highly effective in improving speech perception and quality of life, but identification of particular common environmental sounds (e.g. ‘car honking’) is a continuing challenge for some listeners. This study investigated whether environmental sounds’ perceptual characteristics: perceived complexity, pleasantness, familiarity, and easy of imagining it, are predicative of (a) identification accuracy for the same sounds and (b) identification accuracy of other sounds. Data was collected on forty-five experienced postlingual adult CI users. In an online test battery, the listeners first read the name of 24 individual sounds (i.e. ‘baby crying’, ‘doorbell’) and were asked to rate their perceptual characteristics. Next, listeners heard these sounds in a random order and were asked to identify them. Subsequently, participants’ perception of musical instruments and styles was evaluated with Appreciation of Music in Cochlear Implantees (AMICI). In addition, speech perception and spectro-temporal processing abilities were evaluated with tests of discrimination of complex frequency modulated pattern, changes in spectral ripple, and speech in noise. Our initial hypothesis was that familiarity and ease of imagining would correlate with the participants environmental sound identification while complexity and pleasantry would not. Correlational analyses indicate that two ratings – familiarity and easy of imagining correlate significantly to the participants’ environmental sound identification accuracy. Furthermore, these same two ratings correlate moderately with musical instrument and style identification accuracy. These findings suggest that in CI listeners imagery for environmental sounds can be indicative of their ability to perceive environmental sounds and some other meaningful structured sounds.
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