Sound sensitivity (phonophobia) as the first sign of migraine

You are having what you think will be a migraine-free day. You go about your business and don’t give migraine a second thought, as you don’t have any reason to believe you’ll have one that day.

You have a productive morning at work and get so much done you decide to meet a friend for lunch at a favorite restaurant. You feel a little tired, sure, but it’s nothing that a healthy lunch and tall glass of water won’t fix. You settle down at a table and start chatting with your friend, and suddenly the toddler behind you is very unhappy.

The crying starts full-force, a wail that trickles into steady sobbing and whining for a couple of minutes. Without realizing you’re doing it, you’ve dropped your fork and are covering your ears with your palms. Your friend looks at you strangely, and you realize you could look to outsiders as if you are reacting rudely to the baby. Everyone has tough days, including tiny kids, and you are usually the most understanding (after years of nannying), but right now your eyes are half-shut and your hands are over your ears rather dramatically. No one else in the restaurant has reacted this way.

That’s when you realize that, despite the way the morning had progressed, this was likely going to be a migraine day.

You drop your hands and shoot a quick smile to the dad trying to calm the child down, as a way of showing him that you are not judging. You were just startled by the noise. You finish lunch and chat with your friend, but you’re more distracted than you were before. You start thinking about what you have to do that afternoon and how your agenda will have to change if this migraine does emerge.

You scoot your chair back loudly and are shocked that the whole restaurant hasn’t looked over toward that horrifically loud screech. You drop your ear to your shoulder instinctively, as if to block the noise in at least one ear even though the screech has already ended. Your instincts are to protect your sensitive head and hearing.

An hour after lunch, you realize you need to call it a day at work. You wrap up a couple of emails and stretch your neck and back. You rub your temples and shut the computer down. It’s time to head home, take some migraine medication, and be prepared to be homebound the rest of the day if the medication doesn’t work effectively.

Have you ever had the experience of realizing a migraine was coming only after you reacted dramatically to a loud sound or bright light? Have strangers shot you odd or confused glances when you cover your ears to a sound that is, to them, at a normal volume?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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