Sense of taste and smell

As the name suggests, it is a sensory perception - we "test" the quality and palatability of our food with our mouth and nose. The result is varied and individual. If there is a disease of the mouth, the nose or the ears, it can lead to taste and smell disorders. Therefore, a comprehensive examination must clarify all possible causes. Depending on the cause, the function can be restored, e.g. by an operation on the nose or the paranasal sinuses.

Smell disorder

Smelling and tasting are among the sensory perceptions of humans, along with seeing, hearing and touching, and thus contribute to the quality of life, but also mean protection in dangerous situations.
Every second person over the age of 65 is affected by a loss of sense of smell. The decreasing activity of the olfactory cells with increasing age may play a role in this. However, about 2% of people under 65 also suffer from olfactory disorders.

What is called an olfactory disorder?

  • Complete loss of the ability to smell (anosmia)
  • Reduced olfactory perception (hyposmia)
  • Extreme olfactory perception or hypersensitivity to odours (hyperosmia)

What are the possible causes?

  • Inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose and/or sinuses
  • Infection of the upper respiratory tract
  • Accident (blow or fall on the head)
  • Neurological diseases (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's)
  • Medication
  • Surgical procedures that have been performed

What should be done?

  • During the consultation with the ENT specialist, a detailed anamnesis is taken:
  • How strong are the complaints felt (suffering, impairment in everyday life, occupation)?
  • When did the disorders start (known, possible event?)
  • How has the condition developed (period of time, intensity)?
  • Previous medical history
  • Current or previous use of medication

The interview is followed by a clinical (physical) examination. With the endoscope, the specialist can look at the inside of the nose up to the olfactory fissure. He can see whether there is a curvature of the nasal septum (deviated septum), whether polyps have formed or whether scarring has occurred as a result of previous operations.

To complete the diagnosis, a smell test is carried out. The patient is presented with different odours (in the form of smelling sticks). The patient is now asked to determine the identity of the scent - with the help of 4 choices - as well as to name the intensity of the perception. A side comparison - left and right nostril - is also made.

In summary, the specialist discusses the results and the resulting therapy with the patient. Possible therapies are: Drug therapy, surgical intervention, olfactory training. The latter can be used in principle to improve the ability to smell. You can put the test together yourself: It consists of coffee beans, cloves, peppermint oil and perfume. These substances are put into small, airtight containers and smelled twice a day for 15 seconds. Every month, the substances should be replaced by fresh ones. After approx. 10-12 weeks, training success should be noticeable.

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