Earworms are defined as catchy songs or melodies which repeat over and over in your mind. Experts refer to them as "involuntary musical imagery" and according to another study in the Journal Psychology of Music, over 90% of adults say they have this experience weekly (if not daily).

Everyone hears something different, but on average earworms last about 30 minutes, and tend to be songs with lyrics not just instrumentals. For most of us they're no big deal, maybe just slightly annoying. However, some people claim that earworms interfere with their lives.

Now I'm not alleging severe distress due to them, but I have had song snippets in my head that have lasted for hours! I'm also not admitting that I fall into one of the categories which research indicates would be more likely to be bothered by earworms, like people with obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Some theories imply that you can get them from seeing an image, or recently hearing a song, or a song you may hear first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Women get them more than men and they also occur more often to people who play instruments themselves. They tend to be up-tempo in nature and emerge when you're not doing something which requires your full attention.

The truth is no one is really certain why they happen, but there are ways to get rid of them. Mentally challenging tasks can help kick them to the curb. One method I heard years ago, was to do math in your head. I've tried that with limited success, mostly because I'm terrible with math (in my head and out).

Other suggestions include: chewing gum, talking to a friend or eating a meal. Apparently doing other things with your mouth can stop the music. You could also listen to the entire song which includes the "passage stuck in your head" and that may do the trick. Thank goodness I'm finally hearing "Cake By the Ocean" in full right now, it's been stuck in my head all morning!

Sources: Time Health, Journal of New Music Research, Sage Journals-Psychology of Music


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