How to Kick a Song out of your Head

Why earworms happen, and how to fight them.

Jessica Wildfire
4 min readSep 11, 2018

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You’ve suffered this ordeal. A song comes on the radio, but you’ve just pulled into work. Sometimes, you stay in your car and let it finish. But today you’re running late, so you kill the engine and hurry to your meeting. Hours later, the song won’t stop playing inside your head.

And so it goes, all day.

The song keeps on, no matter what you do. You try to think about something else. But the song returns, when you least expect it.

After three days, you consider therapy.

A week goes by, and you start to wonder if you’ve died, and this is your personal hell. You’re doomed to spend all eternity living your normal life, except now the only song you’ll ever hear again is “Bad Romance.” Or even worse, “Wrecking Ball.”

Not that you ever hated these songs. But anything played a hundred times can make you think you’re losing your grip.

This condition goes by a few different names. Known as earworms to some, stuck song syndrome to others, scientists have labeled it Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI) and started observing its characteristics. Either way, it can come on without warning, and it’s sooo irritating. Nobody has ever died from INMI, but just wait.

You’re not alone

Almost everyone catches an earworm at some point. In fact, most people come down with one on a weekly basis. They’re almost as common as hiccups. So common, in fact, we hardly think about them.

Most ear worms last less than a day. But some can last weeks.

Recently, I had “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam stuck in my head for the better part of a month. It was my first earworm since “Call Me Maybe.”

One of my Twitter friends has been listening to “Love Fool” by The Cardigans in his brain all summer. Someone else I know had Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit” stuck in his head all through basic training.

Even if earworms are common, we don’t think of them as something we can remedy. But psychologists have.

What causes earworms

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