Migraine and Sensory Sensitivities: Coping with Hyperosmia and Hypersensitivity

Migraine and Sensory Sensitivities: Coping with Hyperosmia and Hypersensitivity


Living with migraine attacks can be challenging, as it often involves coping with a range of symptoms, including sensory sensitivities. For migraine sufferers, two common sensory sensitivities are hyperosmia (heightened sense of smell) and hypersensitivity to lights, sounds, and textures. These sensitivities can worsen migraine attacks and make daily life more difficult. However, there are strategies and coping mechanisms that can help individuals manage and cope with hyperosmia and hypersensitivity. In this article, we will explore the experiences of migraine sufferers with these sensitivities and provide practical tips for coping.

Understanding Hyperosmia and Hypersensitivity

To better understand how hyperosmia and hypersensitivity affect migraine sufferers, it is essential to define these terms:


Hyperosmia refers to a heightened sense of smell. During migraine attacks, individuals with hyperosmia experience an increased sensitivity to odors, including pleasant and unpleasant scents. Even subtle smells that would usually go unnoticed become overwhelming and can trigger or worsen migraine symptoms.

Hypersensitivity to Lights, Sounds, and Textures

In addition to hyperosmia, many migraine sufferers also experience hypersensitivity to lights, sounds, and textures. This means that they become more sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, and certain textures, such as scratchy fabrics. Exposure to these triggers during a migraine attack can intensify symptoms and prolong recovery.

The Impact of Hyperosmia and Hypersensitivity on Migraine Sufferers

Personal experiences and stories from individuals with hyperosmia and hypersensitivity during migraine attacks shed light on the challenges faced:

1. Overwhelming Smells

During migraine attacks, individuals with hyperosmia often find themselves overwhelmed by smells that are typically benign or even pleasant. For example, the scent of a coworker’s perfume or the smell of food cooking can become unbearable and cause nausea or even trigger a migraine episode.

2. Sensory Overload

Migraine sufferers with hypersensitivity to lights, sounds, and textures find themselves easily overwhelmed by their surroundings. Bright lights, loud noises, and certain textures can cause discomfort and pain, exacerbating migraine symptoms and making it challenging to focus or function.

Coping Mechanisms for Hyperosmia and Hypersensitivity

While hyperosmia and hypersensitivity can be challenging to manage, there are several coping mechanisms that can help individuals navigate these sensitivities:

Managing Hyperosmia during Migraine Attacks

When dealing with hyperosmia during migraine attacks, consider the following tips:

  • Create a scent-free environment by using unscented products and avoiding strong odors.
  • Find relief using essential oils known for their calming and soothing properties, such as lavender or peppermint, but be mindful of personal sensitivities to scents.
  • Avoid known triggers, such as strong perfumes or chemical odors, which can exacerbate your hyperosmia and trigger a migraine attack.

Strategies for Coping with Hypersensitivity to Lights, Sounds, and Textures

To manage hypersensitivity during migraine attacks, consider the following strategies:

  • Wear sunglasses or tinted lenses to reduce the impact of bright lights.
  • Use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to minimize exposure to loud or irritating sounds.
  • Opt for soft and comfortable fabrics to minimize physical discomfort caused by hypersensitivity to certain textures.

Lifestyle Adjustments to Minimize Sensory Triggers

Making specific lifestyle adjustments can help minimize sensory triggers and create a more migraine-friendly environment:

A. Migraine-Friendly Environment

To create a migraine-friendly environment, consider the following:

  • Dim lights or use natural lighting to reduce the intensity of artificial lights that can trigger migraine attacks.
  • Soundproof living spaces or use white noise machines to create a quieter environment.
  • Choose clothing and accessories made from comfortable and non-irritating fabrics.

B. Managing Sensory Sensitivities in Public Spaces

When venturing into public spaces, utilize these tips to manage sensory sensitivities:

  • Plan outings during non-peak times to avoid crowded and potentially overwhelming environments.
  • Use scent-free and migraine-friendly products, such as unscented personal care items, to mitigate triggers in public spaces.
  • Communicate with friends, family, and coworkers about your sensitivities, so they can better understand and support your needs.

Seeking Support and Professional Help

Living with hyperosmia and hypersensitivity can be isolating, but reaching out for support can make a significant difference:

  • Join support groups or online communities specifically for migraine sufferers to share experiences and coping strategies.
  • Consult healthcare professionals who specialize in migraine attacks and sensory sensitivities for personalized guidance and treatment options.


Managing hyperosmia and hypersensitivity is an important aspect of coping with migraine attacks. By implementing coping mechanisms and making lifestyle adjustments, individuals can better manage their sensory sensitivities and improve their overall well-being. Remember, it is essential to find strategies that work best for your individual needs. With the right support and techniques, it is possible to navigate hyperosmia and hypersensitivity while living a fulfilling life.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

You Will Also Like

Back to Blog

Leave your mobile to get a link to download the app