The Surprising Ways Ear Worms Affect Our Daily Lives

Roger Skibowski
3 min readSep 11, 2022

These small snippets of tunes can be annoying, but they may also serve an important purpose. Researchers have found that ear worms can help us remember information, and they may even boost our moods. In fact, some ear worms are so popular that they’ve become part of our cultural heritage.

What are ear worms?

Ear worms, also known as involuntary musical imagery (INMI), are short, catchy tunes that get stuck in your head. A variety of things can cause them, including stress, fatigue, or even just hearing a great song. Once an ear worm gets stuck in your head, it’s difficult to get rid of.

Why do we have them?

There is still some debate among researchers as to why we experience ear worms, but there are a few theories. One theory is that ear worms help us process and remember information. Another theory suggests that ear worms are a form of creative thinking, and that they may help us come up with new ideas.

The positive effects of ear worms

Ear worms may annoy, but they can also have some surprising benefits. For example, they have shown ear worms to help people remember information. In one study, I asked participants to memorize a list of words. Those who had an ear worm stuck in their head were more likely to remember the words than those who did not have an ear worm.

Besides helping us remember information, ear worms may also boost our moods. One study found that people who had an ear worm were more likely to report feeling happy than those who did not have an ear worm. This may be because the repetitive nature of ear worms can help to distract us from negative thoughts.

The negative effects of ear worms

While ear worms can have some positive effects, they can also be detrimental to our wellbeing. For example, ear worms can interfere with our sleep. If you’ve ever been kept up at night by a catchy tune, you know how frustrating this can be. Besides interfering with our sleep, ear worms can also lead to anxiety and OCD-like behaviors.

How to get rid of ear worms

Roger Skibowski