When Your Taste and Smell Fade


Losing your taste and/or smell can be very frustrating. It can take the joy away from a home-cooked meal or ruin a favorite hobby, like gardening. Luckily, OOA is an expert ear, nose and throat clinic. We can work with you to identify the cause of your sensory malfunction.

In order to understand how one loses smell and tastes, we need a little background information: “Smell and taste belong to our chemical sensing system (chemosensation). The complicated process of smelling and tasting begins when molecules released by the substances around us stimulate special nerve cells in the nose, mouth and throat. These cells transmit messages to the brain, where specific smells or tastes are identified. Our body’s ability to sense chemicals is another chemosensory mechanism that contributes to our senses of smell and taste. In this system, thousands of free nerve endings, especially on the moist surfaces of the eyes, nose, mouth and throat, identify sensations like the sting of ammonia, the coolness of menthol and the “heat” of chili peppers.” (American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery)

Now we understand the specifics of how we are able to taste and smell, but the question remains: How do we lose the sense of taste and smell? The simple is answer is that there so many different causes. The most common cause is also the most straightforward: age.  The sense of smell is at peak performance between the ages of 30 and 60 years. However, it begins to diminish after age 60. (A large percentage of older persons lose their smelling ability.) Smoking is another plain cause of taste and smell deterioration. Tobacco impairs the ability to identify odors and diminishes the sense of taste. In some cases, quitting smoking improves the function of taste and smell. Upper respiratory infections are blamed for some losses and injury to the head can also cause smell or taste problems. Still other reasons range from sinus cavities, hormonal disturbances or dental problems. They also can be caused by prolonged exposure to certain chemicals such as insecticides and by some medicines.

The extent of the loss of smell or taste can be tested using the lowest concentration of a chemical that a person can detect and recognize. A patient may also be asked to compare the smells or tastes of different chemicals and how the intensities of smells and tastes grow when a chemical concentration is increased. There are a multitude of remedies for the loss of taste and smell. They all depend on what caused your loss of senses in the first place. A physician may recommend nasal or oral steroids and antihistamines. Another avenue to restored senses may be surgery in the instance of  nasal polyps, chronic sinusitis, deviated septum, or other surgically treatable disorders.

Contact Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates to start your journey to healthy with a dynamic group of physicians who are dedicated to your well-being.