Migraine & Heightened Sensitivity to Sound

"A school bell sounded like a dentist drill going through my ears"

I have heightened senses

For people who are not super-sensitive to light, sound, and smell, it can be nigh on impossible to explain what it’s like to have heightened senses. Even when I’m feeling extremely healthy and migraine-free, I can smell a cigarette from a hundred feet away, notice that one flickering bulb in an otherwise well-lit room, and detect that high-pitched buzzing that somehow isn’t driving everyone else up the wall.

Phonophobia and migraine

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re a migraineur. And if you’re a migraineur, it’s likely that you know what it’s like to hear a sound that seems to pierce your eardrums while no one else in the vicinity seems to even notice. Phonophobia can be especially prevalent during a migraine attack.

My sensitivity to sound and music

One of my strangest phonophobic quirks is that, while listening to music (either live or on my stereo), certain songs can be turned full blast while others are impossible to tolerate. Live concert recordings can be really hard to listen to loudly - the music can sound fabulous and I’ll be rocking out happily until the audience explodes in applause. Instead of taking in happy clapping, my ears perceive the sound in a painful way. It’s as if my eardrum is a tin roof and the applause is hail raining down violently on that roof. I instinctively turn the volume down, often to the confusion of whoever’s listening to the music with me.

Listening to live music

As frequent readers of my blog know, I go to see a lot of live music. I always come armed with my earplugs (confession: I buy them in bulk!), but sometimes rock shows can be so loud (especially the cymbals and screeching guitars) that I have to step out, even if I’m not migraining.

How do you manage?

How have you with very sensitive ears dealt with your phonophobia (sensitivity to sound)? Do you experience phonophobia all the time, or only during a migraine attack? How do you cope when you are in an environment where sounds are out of your control?

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