Auditory Memory: Definition, Importance, Deficits and Test

Memory is the retention of information over time. Although the word memory may conjure up an image of a singular, “all-or-none” process, it is clear that there are actually many kinds of memory, each of which may be somewhat independent of the others.

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.

The frustration of talking to children where information goes “in one ear and out the other” is common to both teachers and parents. But for children with a poor auditory memory, this statement is pretty close to the truth, and this weakness can have serious consequences in the realm of learning.

Consequences of poor auditory memory

If a child struggles with auditory memory, they can find it difficult to follow instructions and pay attention. Because children with auditory memory weaknesses pick up only bits and pieces of what is being said in class, 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.

Students with auditory memory deficiencies will often experience difficulty developing a good understanding of words, remembering terms and information that have been presented orally, for example, in history and science classes.

Auditory memory also plays a crucial role in literacy: it is one area of auditory processing that directly impacts reading, spelling, writing, and math skills.

Children who have poor auditory memory skills can struggle to recognize sounds and match them to letters.

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, utilize 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.

If a child’s digit span is below six, you will see a child, depending on how much drill they have had, who can say all the sounds of the phonemes, and possibly put a few together into words, but at the end of the sentence or paragraph cannot understand what they have just read, even when reading 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.

Test your child’s auditory memory

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 therapist Addie 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.”

How Edublox can help

Edublox Online Tutor (EOT) houses a number of multisensory brain-training programs that enables learners to overcome learning obstacles and reach their full potential.

EOT is founded on pedagogical research and 30+ years of experience demonstrating that weak underlying foundational skills account for the majority of learning difficulties. Underlying foundational skills include auditory memory. Specific brain-training exercises can strengthen these weaknesses leading to increased performance in reading, spelling, writing, math and learning.

In a recent, soon-to-be published research study, 64 2nd grade students at an inner-city school were divided into three groups: group 1 consisted of 22 students who did Edublox Online Tutor (Development Tutor) for 28 hours over a period of three weeks, while group 2 consisted of 21 who played computer games, and the rest continued with school. The Test of Auditory Processing Skills (TAPS-3) was used to assess auditory memory of numbers, words and sentences, before and after the three-week period. Preliminary results show that the auditory memory of the Edublox group (blue line) improved significantly:


Edublox Online Tutor (EOT) has been optimized for children aged between 7 and 13, is suitable for the gifted and less gifted, and can be used at home and in school. EOT is effective for a variety of learning difficulties including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and ADD/ADHD.

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Kimberly, United States