Sometimes with age the sense of smell goes away for unknown reasons and has no cure. Other times disorders like Alzheimer’s, endocrine system disorders, head trauma, nervous disorders, nutritional disorders and head or brain tumors can lead to loss of sense of smell. Other potential causes are medications, lead poisoning, radiation therapy.
It is possible for humans to lose their sense of smell. Those afflicted with mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, anorexia) and those who suffer from migraines have all complained about a decrease in smelling sensitivity. In fact, in one study of various psychiatric disorders, researchers found that smell could be used as a diagnostic tool because so many of those afflicted with the illness had smelling deficiencies.
That being said, a sense of smell can be trained to be more efficient and sensitive as research has found that subjects performing smell tests as part of an experiment often increase their sense of smell by the end of the experiment, even and when that was not necessarilly the intended goal of the research. Also, it has been found that just because an individual loses their sense of smell, s/he doesn’t necessarily forget what things smell like. Because smell is so closely tied to other parts of our brain relating to memories and emotional experiences, it would be difficult to forget the first time you smelled snow or a pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner. Researchers have found that these significant smells often do not go away because our memory is so closely linked with them.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a complete loss of the ability to smell is rare, however, it is not unheard of. Anosmia is defined as the “partial or complete loss of smell.” It can be caused by tumors in the frontal lobe, Parkinson’s disease, or even smoking. To add a fun fact, Stevie Wonder is noted as having anosmia.
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