Ever catch yourself, well your brain – playing a tune over and over again? Like having a whole iTunes playlist but then the play-next button seems to be stuck, it’s the same time or phrase of some tune that plays over and over in a never-ending loop…
No preferred place or time – it just happens! Whether it’s Pharrell’s – Happy , which in my case just simply plays the refrain endlessly. Or some Adele’s While We Were Young, or some upbeat commercial jingle you heard over the radio, more recently the Ariana Grande hit Imagine’s first few lines seems to have taken some spot, or to coin the word – niche – in my brain. Mind you at the onset, I swear I might have even been doing some head bobbin with the song’s tempo. Laughable, but so true!
I am a self proclaimed Earworm afflicted person – I get Earworms in my head as often as a person with Parkinson’s twitches.
Earworms are what we simple people would call it, to the geeks it’s involuntary musical imagery’, or INMI. Termed as a ‘perception’, an auditory hallucination – makes it sound a bit like some dreadful disease when really earworms are something your brain does to keep itself busy. It’s nothing serious.
I’ve read that I am not alone. 92% of people get Earworms – like the common cold. Still, with the cold, there’s a tablet to take to make it go away. When it comes to earworms there are only all kinds of suggestions.
It does become a problem when it lasts for hours, at times causing lack of sleep, and the unrewarded anticipation of the end of this tune. Or is it ever going to end?
Well, it turns out “earwormability” or a song’s tendency to become an earworm is one criterion that songwriters test for, when coming out with a new release. Isn’t that a positive point?
They do practical testing on thousands of people, having them list down which song or tune has been causing their individual Earworms. the researchers then come up with elaborate graphs showing data as evidence to their studies. I think it does depend though, on one – recognition of the tune; two – emotional state; and three- memory behind that tune. And yes, maybe the tempo of the tune itself – like on a joyous day I would get something like Pharrell’s Happy; and on my not-so-good, I would most probably get a Karen Carpenter hit – yah Rainy Days and Mondays would be a big possibility!
There are instances too when you enter the mall or grocery and some tune’s playing .. you go about your errands done, but notice you’ve exited the mall already, but the tune is like a nonstop iTune sample stuck to your brain! when will the looping stop? Happens especially on holidays, right? Those nostalgic Christmas carols playing on overhead speakers, paired with the sentimental visuals of Christmas decors – ah definitely factors to cause some Earworms! In instances like these, they don’t come on as annoying do they?
But whenever they accompany you to bed and have become an overstaying visitor in your brain – you start fumbling for a switch-off button.. Much like what you have on your iTunes or Spotify playlists. But there’s none!
Now it’s become a problem.. and because you know there’s no switch to turn it off, you simply let it be. For all you know, it’s your brain’s weapon against the extreme stress you’re going through or as artists say, it’s an involuntary creative day trip. remember it isn’t dangerous!
But fear no more, the afflicted – there some recommended tips when your Earworms get to be unmanageable.
- Top of the list simply to chew gum! The explanation? Research says that the sections of our brain involved in hearing, remembering and imagining the tune is also partly the same sections involved in speech. Therefore, chewing gum disables some connectivity which causes the earworms. In my simple mind, I’d say the chewing motion diverts you and stops you from continuing the involuntary recollection of the Earworm. Simple, right?
- Another article I read advised the afflicted person to shift focus on a mental task -supposedly a person totally absorbed in doing a mental task, could not fall victim to Earworms despite listening to tunes whilst working on the task
- Have a go-to song to block an Earworm.
Whatever we get to read over the Internet, I personally feel that everyone still has the ability to view Earworms as lightly as what it is really, or make it into another psychological disorder.
Knowing it’s but a natural occurrence takes the fear out of the experience. These days, it’s best we remember to think that some things are just normal.
Earworms could get to be annoying at times – but it isn’t killing you is it? Call it a musical journey or associate it to a simple headache – caused maybe by over reading, overworking and overthinking.
What do you know, maybe the brain is just doing a reset when we experience Earworms?
So you – what’s your earworm recently? Has it been long-lasting, bothersome? Or you know, just an earworm??