A weakness in auditory memory can have serious consequences in the realm of learning for students, states educational therapist Addie Cusimano in her book Learning Disabilities: There is a Cure.
Auditory memory involves being able to take in information that is presented orally, to process that information, store it in one’s mind and then recall what one has heard. Basically, it involves the skills of attending, listening, processing, storing, and recalling. Because students with auditory memory weaknesses pick up only bits and pieces of what is being said during a classroom lecture, they make sense of only little of what is said by the teacher. Afterwards they are able to recall only a small amount or none of what was said, says Cusimano.
“Students with auditory memory deficiencies will often experience difficulty developing a good understanding of words, remembering terms and information that has been presented orally, for example, in history and science classes.”
“These students will also experience difficulty processing and recalling information that they have read to themselves. When we read we must listen and process information we say to ourselves, even when we read silently. If we do not attend and listen to our silent input of words, we cannot process the information or recall what we have read. Therefore, even silent reading involves a form of listening,” says Cusimano.
A poor auditory short-term memory is often the cause for a child’s inability to learn to read using the phonics method, says Cyndi Ringoen, a neurodevelopmentalist. “Phonics is an auditory learning system, and it is imperative to have a sufficient auditory short-term memory in order to learn, utilise and understand reading using the phonics method.”
According to Ringoen, in order to begin to utilize phonics beyond memorizing a few individual sounds, a child must have an auditory digit span close to six.
Digit span is a common measure of short-term memory, i.e. the number of digits a person can absorb and recall in correct serial order after hearing them or seeing them. As is usual in short-term memory tasks, here the person has to remember a small amount of information for a relatively short time, and the order of recall is important.
To test the auditory digit span of a child, say numbers slowly in one second intervals, in a monotone voice. Say, for example, 6-1-5-8 and have the child repeat it back. If he can, then say 9-2-4-7-5. The child must be able to say a 4 digit sequence back correctly 75% of the time on the first try to be considered at a short-term memory of 4, and it is the same for each higher digit.
Auditory memory is probably the most prevalent but most often overlooked learning skill deficiency, says Cusimano. “Throughout my years of testing I have found a higher percentage of students with weaknesses in the auditory memory areas than any other learning skill area, even among those students whom we would not classify as learning disabled. In addition, most children who have attention deficit disorders and/or hyperactivity have serious auditory memory deficiencies. These children are desperately in need of remediation in the auditory skill areas.”