Got a Song Stuck in Your Head? Here’s How to Kill an Earworm

There was no way to avoid the graffiti above the urinal in the restaurant restroom. “I have Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ playing in my head. And now you do, too.” And for the rest of the day, I did. Dammit.

Earworms–an endless loop of approximately 20 seconds of s song in your head–can be extremely annoying and even debilitating. How can we turn off this music? A magazine called  How It Works offers these solutions quoted in the Daily Mail:

Doing an anagram: Studies performed at Western Washington University showed that anagrams could provide some relief from earworms. Puzzles that aren’t too challenging proved more successful than trying very complicated tasks.

Chewing some gum: Researchers at the University of Reading tried giving chewing gum to volunteers after they had listened to catchy songs. Movement of the jaw is thought to interfere with short-term memory and the ability to imagine sounds in your head.

Replacing the song: In studies performed in Finland and England, a small percentage of participants reported using ‘cure’ songs to relieve the frustration of an earworm; by listening to well-liked classics, they distracted themselves from the unwanted song in their head.

Solving a sudoku: Western Washington University researchers reasoned that performing complex non-verbal tasks could also help to keep earworms away. Easy sudokus were most effective, while challenging puzzles prompted the mind to wander.

Read more about how things work here.


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.

One thought on “Got a Song Stuck in Your Head? Here’s How to Kill an Earworm

  • December 31, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    someone was paid to write this.. rofl.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.