Ailing ears


I suffer from a recurring earworm infection. It’s not a parasitic insect, but a pop song, stuck deep in my head. The affliction is common in our society where we’re constantly inundated by repetitive music, but I’m so often struck that I can only describe it as torment.

Once I have a catchy riff playing in my head, I can rarely do anything else. Chores and tasks are ultimately ignored.

It took 15 years for me to realize that the catchy melody included as a demo track for my old Yamaha synthesizer was actually an instrumental remix of the Rick Astley song “Together Forever.”

While it’s impossible to prevent the occasional earworm, I’ve found that there are steps you can take steps to lessen the suffering.

Theoretically, the best way to avoid getting an earworm is to live as a hermit on a remote mountain.

This is an unrealistic option for most. You can also devote your life to the avoidance of new music, but even just walking down the street exposes you to a potential drive-by shooting of songs blaring from a random car.

None of these preventive measures will help you once you get an earworm. The only true cure for earworms is to track down the whole song and listen to it repeatedly until it’s memorized in its entirety, as opposed to knowing only the catchy section that tends to loop indefinitely.

Once you can remember the whole song, whenever the earworm reoccurs, the song actually ends. Because the worst earworms are the songs you can’t identify, the severity of the earworm is dependent on the media.

Radio stations are such bad offenders that they should be considered a public health hazard. Unlike the TV, which displays the name of the artist and the song in its music videos, the radio just assumes knowledge of songs.

If you don’t have the ability to sing your earworm out loud — so that those around you can identify the song — then there is basically no way to track the song down. You’re left stranded in a sea of crazy.

There is however still hope for closure. Like me, you might be able to find out the name of the song years after it has ravaged your sanity. When a song finds its way into the deepest part of your brain, you don’t want to be together forever.

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