Purpose The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to establish a baseline of the vowel and consonant identification scores in prelingually and postlingually deaf users of multichannel cochlear implants (CIs) tested with consonant–vowel–consonant and vowel–consonant–vowel nonsense syllables.
Method Six electronic databases were searched for peer-reviewed articles reporting consonant and vowel identification scores in CI users measured by nonsense words. Relevant studies were independently assessed and screened by 2 reviewers. Consonant and vowel identification scores were presented in forest plots and compared between studies in a meta-analysis.
Results Forty-seven articles with 50 studies, including 647 participants, thereof 581 postlingually deaf and 66 prelingually deaf, met the inclusion criteria of this study. The mean performance on vowel identification tasks for the postlingually deaf CI users was 76.8% (N = 5), which was higher than the mean performance for the prelingually deaf CI users (67.7%; N = 1). The mean performance on consonant identification tasks for the postlingually deaf CI users was higher (58.4%; N = 44) than for the prelingually deaf CI users (46.7%; N = 6). The most common consonant confusions were found between those with same manner of articulation (/k/ as /t/, /m/ as /n/, and /p/ as /t/).
Conclusions The mean performance on consonant identification tasks for the prelingually and postlingually deaf CI users was found. There were no statistically significant differences between the scores for prelingually and postlingually deaf CI users. The consonants that were incorrectly identified were typically confused with other consonants with the same acoustic properties, namely, voicing, duration, nasality, and silent gaps. A univariate metaregression model, although not statistically significant, indicated that duration of implant use in postlingually deaf adults predict a substantial portion of their consonant identification ability. As there is no ceiling effect, a nonsense syllable identification test may be a useful addition to the standard test battery in audiology clinics when assessing the speech perception of CI users.
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