Have A Song Stuck In Your Head? Try Chewing Gum

There are few things more annoying than having a song stuck in your head that you just can't shake. Pop music is designed to be catchy and put out formulaic radio hits, often purposefully containing repetitive lyrics that linger long after you've stopped listening. However, if this earworm is driving you crazy, we have an easy solution for you. Next time that you have a song playing on repeat in your noggin, try chewing a stick of bubble gum to rid yourself of the unwelcome tune (via Mental Floss). This isn't some urban legend, but rather a recommendation that is backed by science.

The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology published research by a team of scientists at the University of Reading, U.K., demonstrating the effectiveness of chewing gum in combating "involuntary musical recollection." They conducted a series of experiments "in which participants were exposed to catchy tunes while either chewing or not chewing gum," that showed how chewing gum can help release you from your own personal auditory prison (via Science Daily). The scientists discovered that "chewing gum interferes with the experience of hearing musical recollections and therefore can be recommended as an aid to get rid of earworms."

Biting off more than you can chew

Eradicating earworms hasn't been the only practical use of chewing gum either. Throughout history, ancient civilizations have chewed gum for various beneficial reasons. According to History, there's evidence of northern Europeans chewing a birch bark tar as a snack 9,000 years ago "possibly for enjoyment as well as medicinal purposes, such as relieving toothaches." The Mayans and Aztecs also chewed a substance called chicle to relieve thirst, ease toothaches, remove food from their teeth, and freshen breath (via Serious Eats). But chewing gum to rid yourself of a repetitious melody can have its drawbacks depending on how often you engage in the activity and the type of gum you select. 

Gum containing sugar can cause cavities, whereas sugar-free gum might potentially prevent them. And like most things, chewing gum in moderation is key since constant chewing could lead to jaw pain, including Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), per the University of Utah. Excessive gum chewing may also lead to headaches in children and adolescents, according to a study in the Journal of Pediatric Neurology. Of course, the experience of having a redundant song rattling around in your brain isn't particularly pleasant either, so it's up to each individual to weigh the cost and benefits of this potential earworm reduction approach.