Skip to content

A Window into Migraine Headache by Wendy Holcombe

Editor’s Note:

As defined by Wikipedia:  “Ménière’s disease ( /meɪnˈjɛərz/) is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance to a varying degree. It is characterized by episodes of vertigo and tinnitus and progressive hearing loss, usually in one ear. It is named after the French physician Prosper Ménière.  In an article published in 1861, he first reported that vertigo was caused by inner ear disorders. The condition affects people differently.  It can range in intensity from being a mild annoyance to a “chronic, lifelong disability.”  Recent research confirms an association between Meniere’s disease and migraine headache.

headache guide-1

Ambiguous number scale gave way to creativity

I was diagnosed with Meniere’s about ten years ago. However, I remember having vertigo attacks for at least seven years before that.  There was always a long period between attacks.  In late 2008, I went bilateral.  My hearing has been fluctuating for years, but in the last two years the hearing loss has advanced very rapidly.  Unfortunately so has the vertigo.  I was diagnosed with migraines when I was in my teens.  They have increased in frequency and severity as my Meniere’s advanced.  Because of this, I was often asked about my discomfort level.  I felt there had to be a better way for me to communicate this other than a number scale.

I have always had a problem with the number scale to describe pain.  It seems very subjective, and I have a hard time answering the question, “What is your pain on a scale from 0 – 10 with 0 being no pain, and at 10 you would go to the ER?”  Each time I hear this I think, “How can I know that what I consider a certain number is the same thing the doctor would think?”

I wanted more of a visual imagery.

So, I created a photo scale.  These photos were originally meant to represent my headaches.  But I’ve used it to describe the severity of a Meniere’s attack, hip pain…etc.  The visual reference works.  Even though the photos are obviously representing a headache, it has been useful in allowing me to show how I feel for many medical questions.

Each of my doctors were very happy to have this visual representation of my discomfort levels.  Many asked to keep a copy to share with other patients and doctors.

I finally feel that I don’t have to wonder if my doctor understands my number rating.

Wendy lives in Durham, North Carolina and graduated from Francis Marion University, in Florence, SC with a BA in visual arts.  (specializing in painting and photography)  Artwork helps Wendy to cope with her chronic conditions.  You can read more about how art helps Wendy’s healing proscess at  She also blogs about living with chronic illnesses, especially Meniere’s, at

If you suffer from Meniere’s, consider joining the SayWhatClub’s Meniere’s email list.

2 thoughts on “A Window into Migraine Headache by Wendy Holcombe”

  1. Thank you kim.
    I’m glad you found a kinship here. My migraines are from various sources…my vestibular problems, hormones, weather… name it I think I can have a trigger from it. : ) But I know they got much, much worse as my Meniere’s progressed. I’m sorry you and your husband can relate to what I’m talking about, but it is nice to hear you aren’t alone doesn’t it?
    I’d love to hear more about you and your husband.

Leave a Reply