Song Stuck in Your Head? Here’s How to Stop Those Pesky Earworms

We’ve all had a tune linger in our head for much longer than we would like, but how can we get rid of the unwanted melodies? According to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Germans coined the term “earworm” more than 100 years ago to describe the experience of getting a song stuck in the brain. Earworms are a form of auditory imagery where we perceive a tone in the brain in the absence of actually hearing it. When a familiar song is heard and suddenly stopped, the auditory cortex of the brain becomes overly activated in anticipation of hearing the rest of the song and fills in the missing pieces. So, who’s at risk for earworms? It’s not some kind of inherited trait, like hair color. The fact is, anyone with hearing is susceptible. Now for the big question: How do you get a song out of your head? First, start by listening to the entire song from start to finish. That can help your brain resolve the unfinished loop that’s causing the song to stick in your brain. You can also distract yourself with another tune, though this approach is usually temporary. You can also engage your mind in activities that require focus, like having a conversation with someone or solving puzzles. One of the most successful tricks is chewing gum because it engages your auditory senses and interrupts the song playing in your head. Finally, like anything else, the more you work at trying to resolve it, the worse it can get. You may need to just accept the fact that the song is there for the time being. There’s a good chance by accepting it, the song will just fade away.