What Is Auditory Memory And How Does It Work?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Memory refers to the processes by which the brain absorbs, encodes, stores, and recalls information. There are many different types of memory, which are categorized according to how information is taken in and how long it’s stored. Auditory memory refers to how an individual is able to receive, process, and store what they hear. Let’s take a closer look at how this mechanism works, why it’s important, and what to look for when it comes to disorders related to auditory memory.

Getty
Do you want to learn more about memory and brain health?

What is auditory memory?

Auditory memory, also known as echoic or auditory-sensory memory, is a form of short-term, working memory formed around words or sounds we hear. Working memory is a type of memory storage that’s intended to hold information temporarily while the brain looks for patterns and connections within it. When this information was gained by listening, it’s auditory memory in action. 

Auditory memory is often referenced in connection to school and education, since people may have trouble learning if they’re experiencing difficulties in this area.

That’s because auditory memory allows us to do things like follow instructions, take notes, and retain facts and information given orally. Auditory memory mostly develops between the ages of two and six, and it tends to naturally decline somewhat once an individual reaches older adulthood.

Auditory memory issues

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD)—sometimes referred to simply as auditory processing disorder or as language processing disorder—is one condition an individual can experience related to their auditory memory. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, it’s characterized by difficulties related to “higher order language, learning, and communication functions”. 

They note that these difficulties are not due to any kind of hearing loss or impairments, but rather with an issue in the part of the brain responsible for this type of working memory. CAPD is commonly associated with other disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some language impairments and learning difficulties. Signs and symptoms of CAPD may include:

  • Trouble understanding oral information, especially when given quickly or in noisy environments
  • Taking longer to respond when communicating verbally
  • Frequently requesting repetition of information
  • Difficulty following oral instructions
  • Difficulty learning songs or new languages
  • Being easily distracted
Getty/PeopleImages

Treatment for this condition may vary. When it affects a child, teachers, counselors, or other support staff at their school may help them learn how to manage it. For example, they might encourage them to ask for repetition of oral instructions when needed, carry a notebook to write down information they might forget, and break down complex concepts into more manageable pieces. The guidance of a speech language pathologist may also be helpful in some instances.

Finally, those who have had a stroke or experienced some other form of damage to the brain may also experience issues with auditory memory. It can negatively impact their well-being and contribute to social isolation and even a decline in physical health, so seeking treatment is recommended in such cases. One study suggests the adoption of a certain type of technology aid known as a personal frequency-modulated system as a potential option for those experiencing auditory memory issues after a stroke.

Coping with memory issues

Memory is a diverse and complex process, but it’s generally an important part of overall well-being. If you’re experiencing memory issues of some kind, you might be feeling a mix of difficult emotions such as frustration, disappointment, or sadness. Memory concerns may also lead to mental health issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety around social interactions, or depression related to social isolation. Meeting with a healthcare professional may be helpful in cases like these. A qualified medical provider can perform an evaluation to determine potential causes and offer techniques or lifestyle changes that may help improve your memory abilities. A qualified mental health professional can help you handle the emotional and social effects that you may be experiencing as a result of memory troubles. 

Getty/AnnaStills
Do you want to learn more about memory and brain health?

If you’re interested in connecting with a mental health professional for support, you have options. If you would prefer to meet with a provider in person, you can search for one in your local area. If you would prefer to meet with someone virtually from the comfort of home, you might consider online therapy. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat to address the challenges you may be facing. Research suggests that video therapy and other virtual formats can be effective methods of therapy delivery, so you can typically pursue this option if it feels more comfortable for you.

Takeaway

Auditory memory is a form of short-term working memory that helps us remember oral instructions and information. If you’re experiencing issues of any kind related to memory, speaking with a healthcare professional is typically recommended.

Improve your memory with professional support

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started