These so-called earworms are incredibly common—more than 90 percent of people get a song stuck in their head on a weekly basis; it usually happens during a boring task like waiting in line.
“The brain stores melodies in chunks, so if we hear a bit of one, especially one with a memorable, repetitive phrase, it’s irresistible for our brain to try to imagine the rest,” says Dr Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, director of the music cognition lab at the University of Arkansas.
Research suggests the stickiest of songs usually have a fast tempo and a common melodic structure. Case in point:
Great. Now it’s stuck in your head and you’re going to have to sing it all day and for the rest of your days, right? Wrong! Earworm research suggests that the prime time for earworms to attack and nestle themselves in your eardrums are when you’re not doing much, mentally speaking. Doing the dishes or just driving? That’s when these tunes from yesteryear enter your psyche. Your fix could be to engage yourself mentally.
READ MORE: FYI — these common objects are damaging your hearing
If you’re not in a position to whip out Suduko or Love In The Time Of Cholera, there is a quicker fix: chewing gum. The motion of your jaw interrupts the phonological cycle by distracting the part of your brain responsible for repetitive thinking, says Margulis.
This article was first published on Women's Health SA.