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There’s a Song Stuck In My Head—Make It Stop!

Jan 20, 2017 08:40AM ● By Flint Zerangue, Sr.

Have you ever listened to a song on the radio while driving to work only to find yourself still humming or singing the same tune over and over again like a broken record (For you millennials—a record is what old people used to listen to music on before CD’s, Cassette tapes or Eight Tracks were invented)? Well, congratulations, you’ve had an ohrwurm .

The Germans call it “ohrwurms” but in America they’re commonly referred to as earworms and experts say it happens to 90% of us at least once a week. Dr. James Kellaris at the University of Cincinnati calls it "stuck tune syndrome." He says it creates a "cognitive itch" that can only be scratched by replaying the tune in your mind. The more your brain scratches, the worse the itch gets.  

The most likely songs to cause ohrwurm are:

       -"YMCA" the Village People

       -"Bad Romance," Lady Gaga

       -"Don't Stop Believin'," Journey

       -"Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen

       -"Moves Like Jagger," Maroon 5

So why do we get earworms? Researchers in the UK collected data from over 3000 people and analyzed their responses, identifying four main triggers for earworms: The most common one is music exposure, either recently hearing a song, or repeatedly hearing the same song. A second reason is memory triggers, meaning that seeing a particular person, hearing a specific beat, or being in a certain situation reminds you of a song. The third earworm trigger is your emotional frame of mind; feeling stressed, surprised, or happy when you hear a certain song. And finally, "low attention states of mind", because when your mind is wandering and not really focused on any one thing, a song can get stuck in your head.

So how can you get rid of a song that's stuck in your head? Try listening to the entire song from beginning to end. Experts say that sometimes a song will keep repeating itself because your brain is trying to reconstruct the whole thing, and once you've heard it from start to finish, your brain moves on to another task. 

NOTE: If you’re also hearing voices in your head—you’ve got an entirely different issue.