Music History

Got a Song Stuck in Your Head? Try Chewing Gum

For the last two days, I’ve had the hook of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” running in my head on a 15 second loop. (And now you do, too. You’re welcome.) It’s been driving me nuts. Turns out all I had to do to get rid of this bloody Irishman is chew some gum.

A study by boffins at the University of Reading battered 98 volunteers with earworms in an effort to understand why songs get stuck in our head (there’s a whole area of neuroscience that’s fascinated with this particular bit of brain function) and, more importantly, how to get them to stop.

First, what triggers earworms?  Exposure to a song, obviously. It’s catchiness (whatever that means to you). Specific words (“faith” is apparently a bad one). Triggers from people and situations that ignite a memory. We can also blame dreams and daydreaming, surprise and, yes, stress.

The gum-chewing works by interfering with our “inner speech,” taking our mind off that endless loop of music. It’s not foolproof–there are people for whom earworms are debilitating and require the administering of OCD-controlling drugs–but it sees to help a sizeable number of people with those singing voices inside their head.

More information at The Daily Mail.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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