Perception of Environmental Sounds in Cochlear Implant Users: A Systematic Review

Front Neurosci. 2022 Jan 10;15:788899. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.788899. eCollection 2021.


Objectives: Improved perception of environmental sounds (PES) is one of the primary benefits of cochlear implantation (CI). However, past research contains mixed findings on PES ability in contemporary CI users, which at times contrast with anecdotal clinical reports. The present review examined extant PES research to provide an evidence basis for clinical counseling, identify knowledge gaps, and suggest directions for future work in this area of CI outcome assessment. Methods: Six electronic databases were searched using medical subject headings (MeSH) and keywords broadly identified to reference CI and environmental sounds. Records published between 2000 and 2021 were screened by two independent reviewers in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) statement to identify studies that met the inclusion criteria. Data were subsequently extracted and evaluated according to synthesis without-meta-analysis (SWiM) guidelines. Results: Nineteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Most examined PES in post-lingually implanted adults, with one study focused on pre/perilingual adults. Environmental sound identification (ESI) in quiet using open- or closed-set response format was most commonly used in PES assessment, included in all selected studies. ESI accuracy in CI children (3 studies) and adults (16 studies), was highly variable but generally mediocre (means range: 31-87%). Only two studies evaluated ESI performance prospectively before and after CI, while most studies were cross-sectional. Overall, CI performance was consistently lower than that of normal-hearing peers. No significant differences in identification accuracy were reported between CI candidates and CI users. Environmental sound identification correlated in CI users with measures of speech perception, music and spectro-temporal processing. Conclusion: The findings of this systematic review indicate considerable limitations in the current knowledge of PES in contemporary CI users, especially in pre/perilingual late-implanted adults and children. Although no overall improvement in PES following implantation was found, large individual variability and existing methodological limitations in PES assessment may potentially obscure potential CI benefits for PES. Further research in this ecologically relevant area of assessment is needed to establish a stronger evidence basis, identify CI users with significant deficits, and improve CI users' safety and satisfaction through targeted PES rehabilitation.

Keywords: auditory assessment; cochlear implant; hearing loss; perception of environmental sounds; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review