Vowel and consonant identification tests were conducted in the sound-only condition in a multilingual group of 13 totally deaf patients who are users of the Ineraid multichannel cochlear implant. Native languages ranged across French, German, Italian, Spanish, Albanian and Swahili. We found high correlations (r > -0.83) among vowel or consonant identification scores and ‘subjective ranking’ scores established on the basis of a subjective evaluation of the patient’s speech reception abilities in the sound-only condition. Detailed analysis demonstrates that the identification of vowel and consonant is dominated by the perception of acoustic cues characteristic of the set of stimuli used as well as by the strengths and weaknesses of the speech processing of the cochlear implant system. We did not find any systematic pattern in the results that could be related to the native language of the patients. These results suggest that vowel as well as consonant identification tests are effective means to compare the performance of cochlear implant patients even across different native languages. They also indicate that, in the future, one can conduct a fewer number of the many different (e.g. nonsense-syllable, word, sentence, speech-tracking) tests when evaluating the speech recognition abilities of patients with the implant.

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