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Cochlear implants (CI) are electrical devices that can restore partial hearing to people with significant hearing losses by direct electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. Although CIs are effective for improving speech perception, perception of music and environmental sounds remains a significant challenge. Similar to speech, perception of both music and environmental sounds involves cognitive processing of sensory information based on existing knowledge of underlying sound sources and their interactions. The current study investigated the relationship between CI listeners’ imagery ratings for environmental sounds with their auditory identification of environmental sounds, musical instruments and musical styles. Adult experienced CI users were shown the names of 23 common environmental sounds and asked to rate how familiar, pleasant, complex, and easy to imagine each sound was to them on a 5-point scale. Subsequently, they were presented with each sound for identification. Participants’ ability to identify musical instruments and musical styles was evaluated with Appreciation of Music in Cochlear Implantees (AMICI). Prior to analysis, the results of environmental sound imagery ratings were weighted based on the auditory identification accuracy of these sounds. Results indicate that two ratings – sound familiarity and ease of imagining correlated significantly with participants’ accuracy of identifying these sounds. Furthermore, the same two ratings correlated moderately with musical instrument and musical style identification accuracy and several tests of speech perception and spectro-temporal processing. These findings suggest that in CI listeners imagery for environmental sounds can be indicative of their ability to perceive other meaningful structured sounds, including music and speech.
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