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Echoic Memory: An Important Consideration

Every Audiologist should understand the concept of echoic memory.


Let me set the scene for you: you're in he living room of your home having a chat with a good friend. You hear a "CLAP!" sound outside, but continue your conversation before a family member busts through the front door and exclaims, "Did you hear that gunshot?"


"Oh yes, we did! That was so scary!" But, the truth is, it wasn't scary for you at the moment.


You hadn't fully "processed" the auditory information. It was just sitting there in your echoic memory- a place in the brain (locus) where sound can sit, unprocessed for 3-5 seconds. Echoic memory allows you to be focused on something else and switch your attention, if necessary, if a new stimuli requires your attention.


How does this relate to Audiology? Have your clients ever complained about how they may ask their child a question and their kid will reply, "What?" But a few seconds later they say, "Oh, actually I heard what you said." This often irritates and aggravates parents, but it's important to explain that this is a normal auditory function.


What should you suggest to a client in the last instance?


Tell them, if your child says "Huh?" in response to some thing you have said, wait a few seconds. Then ask them, "Can you tell me what you heard?" If the child is still struggling or asking for repetition multiple times a day or as an automatic response, they may need to have their auditory processing assessed through a specialized audiologist.

By using the stories above, I'm using your "episodic memory" to create a new neural connection to help you retain this new learning. If you're interested in learning more, I'd suggest listening to Steve Joorden, PhD's Great Course Called Memory and the Human Lifespan.

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