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The Science Of Songs You Can't Escape

Flickr Photo/hobvias sudoneighm

It sounds shocking, but earworms are an epidemic that affect at least 90 percent of people as often as once a week. That’s according to a Goldsmiths University study. But before you go logging onto WebMD, fear not! These earworms are more commonly referred to as songs, regular old songs — often radio hits or catchy grooves that burrow deep within the human brain. For instance, maybe you've been visited by this hungry earworm:

VIDEO: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

Ross Reynolds talked to Ira Hyman, a professor of psychology at Western Washington University, about how and why intrusive earworms wriggle their way into our brains, and the best ways to get them out. His study, which he co-authored with his undergraduate students, is called, "Going Gaga: Investigating, Creating, and Manipulating the Song Stuck in My Head." Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and course Lady Gaga made it into the experiment, along with The Beatles.

Here are some songs our listeners can't get out of their heads:

VIDEO: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" by Taylor Swift

VIDEO: "Istanbul, Not Constantinople" by They Might Be Giants

VIDEO: Hot Pocket Commercial

What are some of the top earworms of 2012? Here's a mashup of everything from Katy Perry to "Gangnam Style" by, you guessed it: DJ Earworm.

VIDEO: Earworm Mashup

Now that we've stuffed your head with earworms, here's how to get them out, according to Ira Hyman:

  1. Engage in an absorbing mental or physical activity like working out or reading a magazine -- one that's not too easy, but not too difficult.
  2. Listen to another song. 
  3. If a song starts playing in your head, try to sing or hum it all the way through.