What Are Earworms? Are They Harmful?

November 2, 2023
3 mins
Michael Piskosz
Dr. Fabrice Bardy


Earworms are sounds, typically songs or melodies, that get stuck in a person's head and keep playing repeatedly, often without conscious effort. They can also be referred to as sticky music or catchy tunes, however earworms are not always music specific. These sounds can be a few notes or an entire song, or they can simply be voices, and they tend to play repeatedly in a person's mind, sometimes for hours or even days. Earworms can be triggered by several events, such as hearing a song on the radio, TV, or in public places, or they can just randomly pop into a person's head. They can also be triggered by stress, anxiety and our overall emotional state. 

The MindEar app offers a variety of soundscapes to help manage earworms and other types of tinnitus.

Earworms are not uncommon and for the most part not harmful. In fact, about 98% of people report experiencing them, and 2/3rd of people report neutral or positive feelings towards them. While some people find earworms enjoyable, others may find them annoying or distracting, especially when they interfere with daily activities or sleep. 

However, not all earworms are benign. Sometimes they occur with psychological issues, migraine headaches, or other medical conditions. If your earworms are persistent and have a negative effect on your quality of life, you should consult with a healthcare professional to determine if your earworm is serious or not and what can be done to alleviate it. Often, the ways to manage earworms is very similar to managing tinnitus. 

Tips to help alleviate earworms:

  1. Distraction: Re-focusing the brain on other sounds or activities can help you detach from the earworm. This can include listening to other music, or even listening to the song/melody itself, as this helps some people ‘flush’ the earworm out.
  2. Be active: Physical activity allows us to refocus our energy into our bodies, rather than our minds. 
  3. Reduce stress and anxiety: Managing stress and anxiety can help reduce the perceptions of earworms.
  4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can help replace negative and intrusive thoughts with more accepting and embracing thoughts. 
  5. Chew gum: For some people, chewing gum interferes with the earworm and makes it harder to hear.

How MindEar can help you in your tinnitus journey

MindEar offers a range of scientifically-backed solutions that can help you manage your tinnitus symptoms effectively. In the MindEar app you will find a soundscape library offering a variety of adjustable soundscapes to help you find the sound sound therapy that works best for you. You can also talk to a tinnitus expert to help determine if a sound masker is right for you. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques are also accessible to provide you with the tools to take control of your condition so that you can live a life without noticing it. MindEar is here to guide you on that journey.

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