Our senses are a large part of what makes us who we are, and sets us apart from single-celled organisms. Our ability to see, hear, taste, smell and touch is one of the greatest joys of life, and these senses are what largely guide us through our way of life.
However, as we get older we may find that it is harder to see things in front of us and read books, and we might struggle to hear and end up getting the best hearing aid we can to keep our sense. But what happens to smell and taste? We know that eyesight and hearing deteriorate over time, but no one really talks about our other senses. Here’s what happens when our sense of smell and taste fade.
Your Sense of Smell
Smell is a sense which often helps us to recognize the ones we love, identify our favorite foods and show us the presence of danger. Smell is a sense which is seldom spoken about in much depth but it is a crucial sense to have. It allows us to smell our favorite things and even recall memories, and life would be dull without this sense in our lives.
As we grow old our sense of smell fades, and this can also link to your loss of taste too as they are both connected. This is why when you have a cold and your nose is blocked, food can seem tasteless.
The causes of loss in smell are varied, and most of the time it is only a short term loss which we can overcome:
- cold or flu
- Allergies such as hay fever
- Polyps- a harmless growth which can cause a runny nose and snoring
- Some medications such as antibiotics
- Radiation treatments such as chemotherapy
- Head injury
However, sometimes there can be more serious reason for your loss of smell, and one of these is Parkinson’s disease. This is a brain disorder which can affect your nerve endings and therefore make it difficult to smell.
Your Sense of Taste
Within your mouth, there are thousands of tiny little taste buds which pick up taste and allow you to recognize flavors. These are situated on the tongue, the roof of the mouth and in your throat. We have five different types of taste buds which identify different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory. As we have already said, our sense of smell can also contribute to taste.
When our food doesn’t taste right, we will often ignore the signs and add more seasoning to enhance the flavor. It isn’t healthy to keep adding excess salt or sugar to your food, and it could be a sign that there is an issue with your taste buds.
Losing your sense of taste can put you off eating, and it can also cause health issues like weight loss, malnutrition, depression, social isolation and other issues caused by not eating healthy foods.
Taste loss is caused by a number of things, and most of the time there is a pretty simple explanation that you can use to help alleviate the symptoms.
- Medication – just like sense of smell, you can lose your sense of taste when taking certain medicines. Some medication can leave your mouth dry and make it difficult to distinguish taste.
- Gum Disease – any issues you have inside your mouth, such as an infection or bad oral hygiene, can affect the taste in your mouth. You can combat this with a course of medicine and by practicing better oral hygiene.
- Alcohol – alcohol can dull your senses, as can smoking.
See A Doctor
There are actually doctors that specialize in the treatment of smell and taste problems called otolaryngologists. If you are experiencing issues with your sense of taste and smell, it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment.
Be prepared for questions as to how much (or how little) you can smell and taste, when you first noticed the issue and whether or not it has gotten worse since then. They will also ask you about any medicines you may be taking and inquire as to whether you have any chronic sinus problems or allergies.
There can of cause be a more serious cause for your loss of taste such as a brain injury which affects the nerves or even burns on the tongue.
It can be difficult as you grow older and the senses begin to fade, however you can make lifestyle choices which will make sure it is less likely to happen.