We’ve all been through it; we get a song in our head, and it just won’t go away. Sometimes it’s just a song we hear at the supermarket, and we don’t even realize we heard it until we try to figure out where it came from. We even start humming or singing it, whether intentionally or not. If it’s a great song, we can stand it for a while. If not, we want to get rid of it immediately. No matter what it is, if it doesn’t go away eventually, we must do something about it.
I’ve heard that letting the song play through to the end will help. I’m sure it works for some people, but it’s never worked for me; it starts right back up again–and again, and again–threatening to drive me to the brink of madness.
Getting rid of an earworm isn’t an exact science; nothing works every time. However, there are two really good methods that work most of the time, at least for me.
How to Get Rid of an Earworm: Replace it with Another Song
This can work, given the right circumstances. You can replace the earworm with any random song or with one you chose in advance for just such an occasion. For example, I chose U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” long ago to be the song to push earworms out of my head. I don’t remember how it happened, but I think I was just desperate for a decent song in my head. It works most of the time. Just remember that once you have the replacement song in your head, it has the potential to be your next earworm, so it should be one you like.
I recently had the misfortune to have a song in my head almost non-stop, thanks to a SOAPnet music video featuring soap opera stars singing “Heat Wave.” Completely unamused, I set out to replace it, but no matter what I did, it always came back. (It didn’t help that SOAPnet seemed to play snippets from the video during every commercial break.) Then my husband mentioned that he’d had “Comfortably Numb” for days. Was he kidding me? I was stuck with “Heat Wave” while he had a terrific Pink Floyd song? I became sick with jealousy. Even so, I refrained from resorting to the next method, which I prefer to use only as a last resort.
How to Get Rid of an Earworm: Give it to Someone Else
For quite a while, the only way I could get rid of an earworm was to give it to someone else. I distinctly recall an incident that happened many years ago, when I got stuck with a song in my head. I already disliked the song, and having it play constantly in my head was just too much. I had to give it to someone else, and I didn’t want that person to give it back to me. I called a friend in another state (FIAS). This was before most phone plans included unlimited long distance, so it was kind of a big deal to call if you had limited funds. Here’s how it went:
Me: I have a song in my head, and I need to get rid of it.
Me: Yes. I have a song in my head, and I need to get rid of it.
Me: The only way to get rid of it is to give it to somebody else. I can’t pass it on to someone around here, because it’s too risky. They could give it right back to me, or stick me with one that’s even worse. I don’t think that’s possible, though. Anyway, I really need to do this before it drives me insane.
FIAS: What is it?
Me: Do you promise not to give it back to me?
FIAS: What is it?
Me: Promise? You can’t possibly hate it as much as I do.
FIAS: Okay, I promise. What is it?
My friend was a good sport, and true to his word, he didn’t try to give it back. I think he probably gave it to someone at work.