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how to get rid of earworms

How to Get Rid of Earworms

Wondering how to get rid of earworms?

Don’t you hate when there’s a song stuck in your head? The phenomenon is nothing new. Mozart used to be plagued by it, often infected by his own children! Mashable says the scientific name is “involuntary musical imagery,” abbreviated to INMI. You can also call it “stuck-song syndrome.” Thanks to this guy, America settled on a better word to describe it. Everybody gets earworms, though musicians and women are somewhat more prone to them. So now that we have a handle on them, here’s how to get rid of earworms.

Grab some gum.

David DeSalvo of Forbes describes how and why a stick of chewing gum can help clear your head of musical distractions. Go read the whole piece, but this is it in a nutshell:

“…We’re all well aware that trying to not think about the song guarantees that it won’t stop playing. The harder you try, the more persistent it becomes. Chewing gum (or chewing anything else that’s sufficiently chewy) doesn’t offer an enhanced thinking solution; it simply takes over the same cerebral rails the song was running along.”

Read the original research here.

One test subject mentioned that chewing on a cinnamon stick also worked, but I’d sure as heck rather chew gum.

hot to get rid of earworms gum

Distract yourself like Goldilocks.

If that doesn’t work, try to distract yourself. Try a puzzle like an anagram, or stick your nose in a novel.

“The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge,” said Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University who conducted the research. “If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head.…

“Likewise, if you are trying something too hard, then your brain will not be engaged successfully, so that music can come back. You need to find that bit in the middle where there is not much space left in the brain. That will be different for each individual.

“It is like a Goldilocks effect – it can’t be too easy and it can’t be too hard, it has got to be just right.”

Just erase it.

Try an “eraser song.” Pick a different song to replace your current earworm. Hopefully it’ll be less sticky.


Go whole hog.

Still suffering? Maybe try the hair of the dog that bit you. Listen to the WHOLE song. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot.


Spread the infection.

This seems kind of mean to me, but maybe you know someone who’s got it coming. Sharing the song in your head makes it more likely to dissipate. For YOU, anyway.


If needed, apply more than one strategy.

Dr. David Ley suggests listening to the entire song, paying it your full attention. Then cognitively distract yourself by doing something else. Follow that up with listening to a song that you link AND know well.

Stay away from these tunes.

Kylie Minogue, Can’t Get You Out of My Head

James Blunt, You’re Beautiful

Baha Men, Who Let the Dogs Out

Mission Impossible theme

Village People, YMCA

Happy Days theme

Corinne Bailey Rae, Put Your Records On

Suzanne Vega, Tom’s Diner

Tight Fit, The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Tiffany, I Think We’re Alone Now

Just out of curiosity, what song is stuck in your head, anyway? And when your friends ask how to get rid of earworms, which method will you recommend?