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Auditory Memory: Definition, Importance, Test, Overcoming Deficits

Memory is the process by which knowledge is encoded, stored, and later retrieved. 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.

A study by Tirosh and Cohen found that auditory short-term memory was significantly related to ADHD and language problems. Riccio and team examined learning and memory in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) as compared to 30 normally functioning children on the Children’s Memory Scale. Results indicated that children in the SLI group exhibited significantly lower scores on auditory indices and subtests relative to the control group. In contrast, no between-group differences emerged for the visual indices and subtests.

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. Kurdek and team measured auditory memory in kindergarteners and found readiness in auditory memory predicted later reading achievement as well as mathematics achievement in fourth grade.

Children who have poor auditory memory skills may struggle to recognize sounds and match them to letters – a common symptom of a reading disability or dyslexia.

Research by Plaza et al. found that dyslexic children exhibited a significant deficit in tasks involving auditory memory skills (digit span, unfamiliar word repetition, sentence repetition), compared with their age-mates. Ahissar and team tested dyslexic and nondyslexic musicians on auditory processing and auditory memory. Dyslexic musicians scored as well as their nondyslexic counterparts in auditory processing tasks, and better than the general population, but performed much worse on tests of auditory working memory, including memory for rhythm, melody and speech sounds. Moreover, these abilities were intercorrelated, and highly correlated with their reading accuracy, which means that the dyslexic musicians with the poorest auditory working memory tended to have the lowest reading accuracy.

“Auditory memory is probably the most prevalent but most often overlooked learning skill deficiency,” says educational 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.”

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.

A two-year-old should have a short-term memory of 2, a three-year-old of 3, a four-year-old of 4 et cetera up to seven years old. The average in our society for a seven-year-old to adult is 7.

According to neurodevelopmentalist Cyndi Ringoen, in order to begin to utilize phonics beyond memorizing a few individual sounds, a child must have an auditory digit span close to 6. If a child’s digit span is below 6, 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.

How Edublox can help

Edublox Online Tutor (EOT) houses a number of multisensory cognitive training programs that enable 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 cognitive skills account for the majority of learning difficulties. Underlying cognitive skills include auditory memory. Specific cognitive 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:

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. The program is effective in alleviating a variety of symptoms associated with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and ADD/ADHD.

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Cusimano A. Learning Disabilities: There Is a Cure. Achieve Publications. 2010.

Kurdek LA, Sinclair RJ. “Predicting reading and mathematics achievement in fourth-grade children from kindergarten readiness scores,” Journal of Educational Psychology. Sep 2001, 93(3): 451-455.

Plaza M, Cohen H, Chevrie-Muller C. “Oral language deficits in dyslexic children: weaknesses in working memory and verbal planning.” Brain and Cognition. March 2002, 48(2-3): 505-512.

Riccio CA, Cash DL, Cohen MJ. “Learning and memory performance of children with specific learning impairment.” Applied Neuropsychology. 2007, 14(4): 255-61.

Tirosh E, Cohen A. “Language deficit with attention-deficit disorder: a prevalent comorbidity.” Journal of Child Neurology. Oct 1998, 13(10): 493-7.

Weiss, AH, Granot, RY, Ahissar, M. “The enigma of dyslexic musicians.” Neuropsychologia. Feb 2014, 54: 28-40.

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