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With the expansion of cochlear implant (CI) candidacy criteria in recent years, understanding benefits in nonspeech domains such as environmental sound recognition (ESR) has become more important. However, the impact of cochlear implantation on ESR outcomes in adults remains unclear. The limited body of current research suggests that general improvements in ESR following implantation are modest and individually variable. The objectives of this study are as follows: (1) evaluate the ESR abilities of CI users with an emphasis on safety-relevant sounds, (2) investigate the relationship between familiarity with and identification of environmental sounds, and (3) evaluate the feasibility of at-home, computer-based ESR evaluation. In this study, participants completed a computer-based environmental sound recognition task in which they attempted to identify 42 different environmental sounds from a closed set of alternatives, with 28 of these being safety-relevant. In addition to sound recognition, participants also rated their familiarity with each sound (1-5) and judged the importance of each sound to safety (1-5). To assess the feasibility of evaluating ESR outcomes in CI patients using remotely accessible, computer-based technology, some participants completed the test at home while others were tested in an audiology laboratory. Electronic medical records were reviewed to obtain information such as duration, degree, and etiology of hearing loss and history of hearing aid use. Preliminary data indicates several trends. CI users rated safety-relevant sounds as more familiar and more important to safety, but did not correctly identify these sounds at a higher rate than non-safety sounds. However, a moderate correlation was present between familiarity ratings and identification. It was also found that participants conducting the test at home have demonstrated greater accuracy than those tested in a laboratory. No significant correlation exists in the current data between duration of CI use and ESR, but chronological age negatively correlated with ESR.
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