Losing your sense of smell or having it 'disturbed' is not as rare as you might think: one in 20 people experience it at some point in their lives. It can happen as a result of chronic sinusitis, damage caused by cold viruses, or even a head injury. It is sometimes also a precursor of nervous system diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But compared with hearing and sight loss, it receives little research or medical attention.
Carl Philpott, Professor of Rhinology and Olfactory at the University of East Anglia, wanted to better understand the issues people with smell disorders face, so him and his team analysed written, personal accounts of anosmia (loss of sense of smell) by 71 sufferers. The texts revealed several themes, including feelings of isolation, relationship difficulties, impact on physical health and the difficulty and cost of seeking help. Many people also commented on the negative attitude from doctors about smell loss, and how they found it difficult to get advice and treatment for their condition.