This study quantitatively assesses how cochlear implants (CIs) and vocoder simulations of CIs influence the identification of linguistic and emotional prosody in nontonal languages. By means of meta-analysis, it was explored how accurately CI users and normal-hearing (NH) listeners of vocoder simulations (henceforth: simulation listeners) identify prosody compared with NH listeners of unprocessed speech (henceforth: NH listeners), whether this effect of electric hearing differs between CI users and simulation listeners, and whether the effect of electric hearing is influenced by the type of prosody that listeners identify or by the availability of specific cues in the speech signal.
Records were found by searching the PubMed Central, Web of Science, Scopus, Science Direct, and PsycINFO databases (January 2018) using the search terms “cochlear implant prosody” and “vocoder prosody.” Records (published in English) were included that reported results of experimental studies comparing CI users’ and/or simulation listeners’ identification of linguistic and/or emotional prosody in nontonal languages to that of NH listeners (all ages included). Studies that met the inclusion criteria were subjected to a multilevel random-effects meta-analysis.
Sixty-four studies reported in 28 records were included in the meta-analysis. The analysis indicated that CI users and simulation listeners were less accurate in correctly identifying linguistic and emotional prosody compared with NH listeners, that the identification of emotional prosody was more strongly compromised by the electric hearing speech signal than linguistic prosody was, and that the low quality of transmission of fundamental frequency (f0) through the electric hearing speech signal was the main cause of compromised prosody identification in CI users and simulation listeners. Moreover, results indicated that the accuracy with which CI users and simulation listeners identified linguistic and emotional prosody was comparable, suggesting that vocoder simulations with carefully selected parameters can provide a good estimate of how prosody may be identified by CI users.
The meta-analysis revealed a robust negative effect of electric hearing, where CIs and vocoder simulations had a similar negative influence on the identification of linguistic and emotional prosody, which seemed mainly due to inadequate transmission of f0 cues through the degraded electric hearing speech signal of CIs and vocoder simulations.