What Is the Function of Auditory Memory?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2019
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The function of auditory memory is to aid in learning through information storage and information recall. Sound information is processed by the brain and stored so that it can be used later. There are three different types of memory based on auditory information processing: echoic, short-term, and long-term.

Echoic auditory memory is a small part of short-term memory. Information is heard, processed, and stored. This information creates an echo in the brain. The echo allows the information to only be stored and recalled for about three to four seconds after the sounds have been heard.

Short-term auditory memory begins with echoic memory. When there is sound information that needs to be retained, it is captured into short-term memory. By mentally repeating the information, it becomes part of short-term memory to be recalled as needed in a short period of time. Children learn phonics in this manner. The sounds are heard, they echo through the brain, and after repetition they become grouped into short-term memory.

When information needs to be permanent, auditory memory is long-term. Long-term memories are grouped in the brain so they can be recalled. For example, children learn to speak by hearing the phonetic sounds that make words. These initial sounds are processed and grouped as echoic memory. By repeating the sounds, they move to short-term memory and from there, the sounds are grouped into long-term memory so they can be recalled to form additional words.


Auditory memory deficiencies can cause problems, particularly for children. Language relies on a child’s ability to grasp what they hear. Reading skills can be delayed from auditory memory deficiencies. Recalling letters, numbers, and words involves different areas of the brain even though all this information is auditory. A deficiency can be in one of those areas or all of them.

For example, if a person with an auditory memory deficiency struggles with recalling a series of words, multiple tasks may be difficult to accomplish. Even though only one area poses a problem, childhood learning as well as adulthood learning is affected. Professional and personal aspects of life require the ability to recall information to complete tasks.

Although most adults have finished school and do not need to sit through classroom instruction, auditory memory is still used. Adults rely on instructions given by employers. They also rely on information given by family members for certain tasks, such as activities. Phone numbers are processed through hearing and grouped into short-term memory along with other information that belongs to a series.


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