They got a name for that too: Earworms.

Really?  Earworms?

No, I’m not talking about some horrific Star Trek torture (although it has been used on the original series),  I’m talking about the phenomenon where a song gets stuck in your head and wont go away.  The term ‘earworm’ comes from the German word ‘ohrwurm,’ and refers to the insidious path of travel from ear to brain.

If that has happened to you, Good News!  You’re not alone!  In fact according to a 2003 study done at the University of Cincinnati by James Kellaris, 98% of us have experienced the phenomenon at some point in our lives.  The study also said that persons with compulsive tendencies and persons who consider music important in their lives are more likely to be affected.  Another study done in 2010 by C. Phillip Beaman and Tim Williams from Reading University found that 9 out of 10 experienced the phenomenon for an hour or longer, and that the songs that tended to get ‘stuck’ depended more upon the individual’s connection to the song, rather than any inherent quality of the song itself–which would account for the wide diversity between genres of songs stuck in people’s heads.  According to Kellaris, songs with lyrics tend to get stuck approximately 74% of the time, followed by commercial jingles at 15%, and tunes without lyrics bringing up the rear at 11%.  Kellaris noted that the phenomenon is most irritating to musicians and women.  The participants of Kellaris’ study identified these Top 10 offenders:

  1. Other. Everyone has his or her own worst earworm.
  2. Chili’s “Baby Back Ribs” jingle.
  3. “Who Let the Dogs Out”
  4. “We Will Rock You”
  5. Kit-Kat candy-bar jingle (“Gimme a Break …”)
  6. “Mission Impossible” theme
  7. “YMCA”
  8. “Whoomp, There It Is”
  9. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”
  10. “It’s a Small World After All”

Interesting tidbit:  famous authors Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe suffered from earworms and wrote about them.  Mark Twain wrote “A Literary Nightmare” about a jingle you can only get rid of by transferring it to another person, and Edgar Allen Poe mentioned the malady in his work “The Imp of the Perverse.”  Of course they aren’t the only famous people to suffer from earworms, but they were the most noteworthy names I came across in researching this blogpost.

So, we all have earworms.  What to do?

There is no guaranteed cure, but suggestions include:

  1. Listen to a different song
  2. Get your mind occupied with something else
  3. Pass it on to a friend (my personal favorite!)

Unfortunately, none of those techniques work with me.  As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, my brain seems to think I need an inner soundtrack to accompany me 24/7.  Well, not when Im actually sleeping, but jolly well up until that point!  The songs change (thank goodness) but its quite normal for me to have the same song stuck in my head for lengthy time frames.  A week or two is fairly common for me, but I have been known to have been obsessed with a certain group for YEARS.  Perhaps my brain is used to a constantly playing inner soundtrack…I dunno.  I am not currently glued to my stereo, nor have I ever really been.  Most of my audible musical contact is during commute to and from work.  But whether I actually physically hear a song or not, it doesn’t take much for a song to take root in my head and stay there until further notice.  For example, a friend posted random song lyrics on his news feed, apparently hoping to see if he could stump anyone as to what song it came from.  I recognized the song right away and posted random lyrics of my own and BAMMO!  I now hear Tommy TuTone’s “867-5309” in my head.  Today is day 3.  Because I am obsessive/compulsive, I went immediatly to YouTube and got the audio track so I could PHYSICALLY hear it.  The sad truth is, my brain will have to get tired of that song before it goes away.  And knowing myself as I do…..I may be hearing this for a long time to come.  Personally, I kind of like it.  Its the folks around me who are driven crazy!

Speaking of crazy, check this out:

Fun links:

  2. (fill out questionnaire about your earworms!)
  3.     (vote for most annoying earworm from the list)

How about you?  What earworms have taken up residence in your brain lately?

~ by irishgrl on May 4, 2012.

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