Auditory Memory

 Auditory Memory involves Listening Skills

 Auditory memory involves being able to take in information that is presented orally to you, process that information, store it in your mind
and then recall what you have learned. Basically, it involves the tasks of attending, listening, processing, storing, and recalling. This, for many students, even those who are not disabled, can be an extremely difficult task.
—  Addie Cusimano, Learning Disabilities: There is a Cure, 2010, Chapter 5.

Auditory memory is often compared to visual memory. In both, it is important to pay close attention, searching for details, and then process and remember the experience. But I would have difficulty dividing Visual Memory into different categories. Auditory Memory, however, can be divided into many areas. I chose six categories for use here, but several of these could be subdivided. The image for this page, quite appropriately shows many different pathways that are intertwined.

Auditory Skills can be difficult for children to learn They intertwined paths here symbolize the intertwined paths of auditory memory

Young children face a difficult task as they learn to distinguish similar sounds and then to use these sounds properly. They face several challenges. They must hear the differences in deal and teal, beer and peer, cheap and jeep and sheep. This is a difficult task.

When adults try to hear and create certain sounds in other languages, we have more difficulty than the children. When I tried to learn some Korean, I could hear the sound that is half-way between an L and an R but, no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t make that sound.

Other problems include substituting one sound for another. Remember may become rerember. Animals may become aminals. These aren’t due to an inability to create the sounds. The sounds are just in the wrong places.

But, unless you have a speech impediment or you are studying a difficult foreign language, this problem is unlikely to affect you.

1. Listening to and interpreting the many ways people speak

Just as we learn from observing someone’s body language including facial expressions, it helps if we pay close attention to voices. Erika may speak rapidly in a high pitch and have a memorable giggle. Max might speak in a low gruff sounding voice. Vinod could speak very precisely with something of a British accent. Juanita may have a voice that is soft but almost musical.

But you want to recognized their voices when they are emotional. Some people speak in a higher pitch when they are anxious. People may speak more quietly, or more often, loudly, when they are angry. There are times when people speak rapidly; there are times when they pause or speak slowly. Perhaps they are thinking. Perhaps they want you to know this is important. Maybe their voice squeaks when they are nervous.

There are a good number of people who call me on the phone and expect me to recognize their voice. Obviously, if you are dating someone, they expect you to recognize their voice. Don’t just expect this to happen naturally. Learn to pay close attention to voices, to their pitch, to how rapidly they speak, to their accents to how their voice changes when they are emotional.

2. Musical Memory

Musical memory is an entirely different area of Auditory memory. First, most musicians can listen to music and identify the instruments.  I can recognize a piano, guitar, banjo, violin, bass, clarinet, saxophone, flute, drum, cymbals and a few other basic instruments. But could I recognize a viola, a cello,  mandolin, french horn, trumpet, cornet, trombone, and others? Maybe in some circumstances, but most of the time, music is not my field.

A second area of musical memory has to do with pitch. When someone plays middle C, some people can sing the note and others cannot. You might be able to echo the sound immediately but be unable to recall the pitch within minutes. Some people can hear any note and know what it is, exactly. Generally such abilities are developed when people are very young. If you were not exposed to music and the difference in pitch before you were three, you are less likely to learn it later in life.

Then there is the question of tune. This is the easiest for most people. In fact, we sometimes hear a tune and cannot keep that tune from running through our heads. Learning a tune come so naturally that the music helps us remember the words. While we may not sing well, we still enjoy singing.

Others don’t enjoy singing, but are constantly listening to music. Their form of auditory memory may be in recognizing the voice of a singer or the musical sounds of a favorite musical group.

3. Recognizing non-musical sounds

I remember a mechanic who could listen to the sounds  my car made and accurately diagnose the problem. When I listen to the  National Public Radio show, “Car Talk,” the Car Talk Guys asks people to imitate the sounds their car makes. Even with poor imitations, the Car Talk Guys can come close guessing to the problem.

People who work with animals or who spend a lot of time with their pets can tell what different animal sounds mean. A quiet growl might mean I’m getting ready to attack, or I’m feeling nervous, or that cat better back off.

For me, this area includes bird calls. I know talented bird guides who not only recognize the calls of all the birds in their area, they can imitate the calls so well that they call the birds and the birds come to see who is calling. I am able to recognize a dozen or so calls, but the others, even though I can repeat them when I hear them and see the bird who is singing, within minutes, I have forgotten what it sounded like. The ones I remember I can often put in “Human Language” like “Peter, Peter, Peter” or “Witchery witchery”. It isn’t easy.

4. Auditory Memory and following Directions

While your syllabus gives the details about your term paper, the professor might, at any time, make changes. Usually this is announced at the beginning or end of class. The professor might say, I know this is different from what I wrote on the syllabus, but instead of a summary of research, I want you to choose only three sources and compare and contrast their methods and conclusions”

You might try to write quickly and get most of it written down, but that’s hard. If you listened first, would you remember what was said long enough to get the important details down?  Or perhaps you are in a lab and the professor lists the things you definitely should not do and gives you directions for the experiment. You don’t have paper handy. Will you remember the directions?  The best way to improve in this area is to listen to a friend saying something and then try to write it down. Work with longer and longer statements.

Educational therapist, Addie Cusimano, says students with poor auditory memory may watch the teacher and appear to be paying close attention but they don’t get it.

They often absorb and make sense out of very little of what is being said They might remember a word here or there, or part of a thought, but often do not truly understand much of the information presented orally to them. Students with auditory memory deficiencies frequently experience difficulty comprehending orally presented directions. They often think they have understood directions for completing their assignments, when actually they have understood very little. As a result, assignments are often completed incorrectly.
— Addie Cusimano, Chapter 5.

This is especially true for students identified as ADD or ADHD.

5. Auditory Memory in the Learning Process.

Many students are able to read a chapter in the book and remember the main ideas. But in a lecture, they seem to remember little or nothing. Ask them what the lecture was about and they check their notes to find out. That is a problem. On the other hand, there are some students who shine in this area.

My son, Tony, who has great difficulty in reading (he is dyslexic), learns best by listening. He got through college by going to all his classes and listening intently. He didn’t take notes because he wouldn’t be able to read them anyway. He didn’t need notes. He apparently compensated for not being able to read by concentrating on his listening skills.

The funniest example of his skills in this area took place when Tony was 12 years old. On a train trip to visit his sister at Yale, people asked if he was a Yale student. He explained that he was a graduate student, that he was doing research in particle physics. He told them about his research and what they were learning.. When he told us this story, I was stunned. “How could you tell them about particle physics?” I asked.

“Simple,” he said. “Don’t you remember that program on TV a couple months ago? It was all about particle physics.” I had trouble remembering the program. Tony remembered it in such detail that he could spend an hour explaining it. But no, he didn’t remember his lectures in college this well. As he explained, “I can only remember the really interesting stuff.”

But Tony’s listening skills were not perfect. That same year, Tony came home from middle school and told me he had to write an essay.  The topic, according to Tony, was “My Pet Peas.”  This was confusing because he never heard of anyone have a pet pea, but he was prepared to be creative and pretend.  We phoned a friend who was in that class, and discovered the topic was actually “My Pet Peeves.”  Tony had never heard the term and he “heard” a word he was familiar with.

There is a big difference between hearing the actual sounds of a word, and in listening for content.

So how do you develop a stronger auditory memory? With visual memory, you pushed yourself to study a photograph and observe the picture very carefully. Simply making the decision to pay close attention makes a big difference. But if you were to practice this skill, studying a variety of scenes, studying faces, studying buildings, studying the location of chess pieces, studying facial expressions, you would show great improvement in your visual memory.

Similarly, you can practice your auditory memory.
Listen to a book on CD and stop every few minutes to sum up or even recite back, just what you heard.
Listen to what a character  on TV says and try to sum in up in detail.
Listen to someone who speaks with an accent and see if you can mimic the accent

You might also test yourself to see if you remember more when taking lecture notes or when you are simply listening. Taking notes helps us focus on finding the main ideas.  Reflect on what methods are helping you most in this area.

When you talk to a friend, or possibly your date, focus on listening to exactly what they are saying. forget about what you have to say on the subject, at least for now. LISTEN INTENTLY. Now you can ask them intelligent questions. “If I remember correctly, you said……. . What was it that made you think this way?” You can practice your auditory memory or listening skills, and at the same time impress the other person. They might think you are such a wonderful listener. They will get the feeling that you really care about them and what they think.

6. Simple ways we can develop our Auditory Memory

1. Simply repeating information helps us remember. You meet someone interesting and your new friends tells you his or her phone number. You repeat in at least three or four times. You will forget it before you get home but you’ll remember it long enough to find a napkin and borrow a pen to write it down. Just keep repeating it.

2. Think of a word that rhymes with your new friend’s name. Scary Terry, Bad Chad, Susie’s a doozie. Harvey is Marvie. Peter is sweeter. Judy’s a cutie. Richard is Richer. Some of these rhymes aren’t exact, but they’ll do. You picture Richard with hundred dollar bills coming out of his pockets and you’re remember that he’s rich or richer and you’ll remember his name

3. Now try to add rhythm, possibly music. Let’s say you meet a young man named Harry Dean. You repeat the name several times, doing it rhythmically. It reminds you of a line from a simple song: “merrily, merrily, merrily.”

Row, Row, Row your boat, Gently down the stream.
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Life is but a dream.

But what you hear now for the second line is “Harry Dean, Harry Dean, Harry Dean, Harry Dean.  Life is but a dream.”  And you picture Harry, of course, rowing his little red boat. And if you think that Harry Dean is like a dream, that helps too.

Or you meet Mary Matthews. Mary, Mary, Mary. I don’t know about you but I am reminded of

My mind would revise this to “Mary, Mary, not contrary. How does your garden grow? With Mathews and Pathways, all in a row.” I wold picture a hundred tiny garden gnomes, all named Matthews. If her name was Mary Lamb, it would be just too simple. Just sing Mary had a little lamb.

Read a simple book of nursery rhymes, especially the very short ones. And you don’t need to stick to  names that rhyme with Mary. I could almost as easily have thought “Yvette, Yvette, with your hair of jet, How does your garden grow?”  Tony, Tony, Are you lonely? And how does your garden grow. Michael, Michael, on your bicycle…  Jack, Jack, with your big back pack… Andrea, Andrea, from a faraway landia…

Another favorite song I use for remembering names is Bingo.

There was a farmer had a dog, and Bingo was his name-O.
B-I-N-G-O.  B-I-N-G-O.  B-I-N-G-O. And Bingo was his name-O.

You just met Amanda Gillis. Try it this way. The A and N in the middle are on the same note.

“Farmer Gillis had a daughter. Amanda is her name-O.
A-  M-  A-N – D- A,   A-  M-  A-N – D- A,   A-  M-  A-N – D- A,  Amanda is her name-O

4. This method isn’t just for learning names. You can create a simple rhyme and maybe sing it to a familiar tune to learn vocabulary.  Let’s try Osmosis. to the tune of Are You Sleeping? or  Frere Jacques. Wikipedia lists the words in 62 languages.

Through a Membrane, Semi-permeable, Os-mo-sis, Os-mo-sis.
From Higher Concentration, to Lower Concentration. Osmosis. Osmosis.

Would I do this for every person I meet? for every new vocabulary word? Absolutely not. If I can remember the name or the word easily, I wouldn’t waste my time. But there are names that I want to be absolutely sure to remember. There are vocabulary words that I keep forgetting. Those are the times you want to use a little extra effort.
These links will take you to other Pathways of Memory

Links to other pathways of memory:

Practical Memory                          Rote Memory                     Mnemonics (memory tricks)

Visual Memory                              Kinesthetic Memory

Relational Memory                      Emotional Memory                       Storytelling in Memory

Multiple Pathways                       Scheduled Reviews             research: Processing Memory

Leave a Reply