Acoustic Encoding: How to Improve Your Auditory Memory Fast

| Learning, Memory

acoustic memory feature imageIf you’re interested in using acoustic encoding to remember things better, you’re in the right place.

You see, this encoding memory process mixes really well with mnemonics.

Provided that you understand the concept properly and apply it well to what you’re doing with memory techniques.

On this page, you’ll learn all about auditory memory and how to use memory encoding techniques related to acoustic encoding.

And you’ll get the knowledge from a memory expert well-versed in tactics and strategies you won’t find anywhere else.


Let’s dive in!

Memory Encoding Techniques: What Is Acoustic Encoding?

Acoustic encoding is more than just a type of memory in the category of sensory memory.

But it’s important that you understand it in that context because you do need to sense sounds in order to have your brain form memories of them.

As with the very similar echoic memory, acoustic memory happens automatically. Sounds enter your senses and your brain automatically remembers them.

It’s that simple.

But the question of improving your acoustic memory comes down to not relying on what you automatically remember.

You need some form of elaboration and rehearsal.

I’ve give you some exercises soon, but first, an important answer to a common question.

Does the Encoding Memory Process Really Work?

The answer is:

It depends.

Here’s what I mean:

Have you ever had an experience where someone tells you to do something and you comply? But when they see that you’re actually going to do it, they stop you and say, “I was just kidding!”

Well, in such situations, your brain has definitely encoded the message. But it has interpreted it wrong.

The study of how we perceive or misperceive irony involves concepts called paralanguage and proxemics.

In Nonverbal Communication, the authors discuss how tone of voice is perceived and encoded by the brain. The authors also talk about “content-free speech.” In other words, how our brains perceive and interpret grunts, groans and other sounds humans make that don’t have strict semantic meaning. As a result, these kinds of utterances often don’t enter semantic memory. They are governed by acoustic memory.

How to Improve Your Acoustic Memory With Encoding

Now that you know about content-free speech, you’re in a good position to improve your acoustic memory.

Here are some steps to follow.

One: Pause And Enquire

When you hear someone make a statement that could be ironic, or use content-free speech, stop and ask them what they mean. Often people hesitate or say “uhm” or provide other nonverbal cues that you don’t notice.

a woman is listening to another woman

But now you will, and you’ll get a clearer answer about what those sounds mean. This will help you match the meaning of the sounds with words, thereby allowing it to enter semantic memory.

Here’s a quick example from my personal life. My wife speaks Chinese and I’ve learned quite a bit of it. But there are sounds like “uhn,” that sometimes mean yes, usually quite enthusiastically. At first, I wasn’t even sure she was communicating something at all.

So to be sure I wasn’t interpreting her incorrectly, I had to ask. And now that I know, the sound is in both my acoustic memory and semantic memory.

Two: Exercise All Aspects Of Your Sensory Memory

Hyper-focusing only on what you hear is missing the point. You also want to pay attention to many other senses.

To improve your overall memory inputs, give these sensory exercises a try.

Three: Add Sounds To Your Mnemonics 

A lot of people who use memory techniques fail to make sounds part of the encoding memory process.

To improve in this area, combine sounds with kinesthetic, emotion and visual experiences.

For example, let’s say you’re memorizing something related to glycolysis.

Instead of having a one-dimensional mnemonic image in your Memory Palace, have your figure grunt loudly. Imagine what it feels like to be the one doing the grunting as you hear it in your mind’s ear.

Four: Practice Learning Other Kinds Of Sound-Based Information

Everyone knows that learning music is good for the brain.

One simple skill you can take up to get started is to learn the key signatures. Although not exactly a paralanguage, it’s interesting because there are many terms used to describe all kinds of musical expressions. It will help you improve your auditory memory in many ways.

Five: Read While Reciting Or Listening To Recitation

I went through horrible bouts of clinical depression while I was in university. I could barely focus on anything I needed to read.

So I made myself audiobooks. Back then, I had to use micro cassettes. Now it’s so much easier with cell phones.

But the point is, I helped improve my auditory memory by speaking a lot.

Anthony Metivier recording an audiobookAnd whenever I could, I read along with audiobooks. Some of my favorite memories from university involve being curled up with a book in my lap and a narrator in my ears. This practice gave me a much deeper feel for what some literature can mean thanks to the interpretive acting of the narrators.

When you’re reciting out loud, you can also come to understand texts more by acting the text out a little. Especially in the mnemonic way we discussed above.

Acoustic Encoding Q&A

Now let’s dive into some common questions around acoustic memory.

What Can I Do With Acoustic Encoding?

A lot of acoustic encoding happens automatically, so you don’t have to do much.

However, if you’re having memory issues overall, you can check in with a doctor. Some memory issues have to do with health problems only a medical professional can consult on.

Assuming you’re in good health, you can start paying a lot more attention to the ways you observe the world. We’ve already talked about noting how people use nonverbal communication. With some critical thinking you can take things in the opposite direction by thinking about sounds that might be missing.

For example, in some of the work of Edward T. Hall, the social anthropologist talked about what he called The Hidden Dimension. Hall shared an anecdote in which American representatives told Saddam Hussein’s son that the USA would bomb Baghdad. But when Hussein’s son went to his father, he said that the Americans didn’t even pound their fists on the table. They interpreted this as a lack of serious intent behind their threats. But they were serious and Desert Storm was the result.

Hopefully you won’t have such dramatic situations in your life, but the point is that you can be proactive about auditory memory through observation. Or you can think critically about sounds that aren’t being made and what that might mean.

Who Is Acoustic Encoding Best For?

Everyone can benefit from learning about this form of memory and practicing better listening skills along with elaborative encoding exercises.

But it will be especially beneficial for people who need to remember what they hear in conversations better.

Finally, memory competitors need excellent hearing. They often have to memorize spoken words and numbers without being able to use any visual memory cues whatsoever.

How Long Does It Take to Improve Acoustic Memory?

The answer to this question comes down to how much time you’re willing to explore and practice your listening skills and memory.

As Don Michael Vickers shared on my podcast, he read one Memory Palace book and within weeks he was performing so well at memory competitions, the regional and national media was interviewing him. He and I talk a lot about auditory memory and acoustic memory issues in that podcast.

Your Next Steps With Acoustic Memory

If you’ve enjoyed learning about how you can perceive and think about how you interact with sounds differently, you’ll love my FREE Memory Improvement Course.

Click the image below to sign up:

Free Memory Improvement Course

You’ll learn more about dealing with sounds, especially how to memorize difficult vocabulary.

And learning a language is yet another way you can give your acoustic memory an intense workout. It will really attune your ears to what others are saying. And the best part is that you can use a Memory Palace to help with the process of remembering the new sounds you hear.

So what do you say?

Are you ready to get out there and enjoy better acoustic memory?


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