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Unexpected and insidious, the earworm slinks its way into the brain and refuses to leave. Symptoms vary, although high levels of annoyance and frustration are common. There are numerous potential treatments, but no cure.

“Earworm” is the term coined by University of Cincinnati marketing professor James Kellaris for the usually unwelcome songs that get stuck in people’s heads. Since beginning his research in 2000, Kellaris has heard from people all over the world requesting help, sharing anecdotes and offering solutions.

“I quickly learned that virtually everybody experiences earworms at one time or another,” he said. “I think because it’s experienced privately and not often a topic of conversation, maybe people really long for some social comparison. They want to know if other people experience what they experience.”

Kellaris, whose most pervasive personal earworm (Byzantine chants) likely has something to do with his wife’s job as a church choir director, has been interested in the topic of earworms for decades. As a musician who now studies how marketers reach the public, he began wondering how widespread stuck songs really are, and began doing small surveys in 2000.

Last year, he surveyed about 500 students, faculty and staff on the Cincinnati campus asking about the type, frequency and duration of earworms, and possible causes and cures. Among the songs respondents picked as most likely to become stuck were: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the Chili’s restaurant “baby back ribs” jingle and “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

CBS News | The Wrong Song Long In Your Head

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