| Tue, Jun 16, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Want to Stop and Smell the Roses, but You Can’t Smell a Thing?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

loss of smellYou know the old saying, “Stop and smell the roses.” You may want to smell the roses but you may not be able to because you may have lost your sense of smell.

This is a reality for many people, particularly for people who’ve had an illness or injury or people ages 60 and older.1

How Smell Works

As a person inhales, air and scent molecules move past the smell receptors in the nose. In turn, the smell receptors relay a signal to the brain.2  If these smell receptors are damaged or blocked, you may lose your sense of smell.

Usually, the loss of smell is not dangerous. However, it may signify an underlying health condition. Also, the loss of smell can make it difficult or impossible to smell smoke in case of fire, a natural gas leak, dangerous fumes, or the ability to detect if your food has spoiled.

There are Several Reasons People Lose Their Sense of Smell, Including:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Blockage of the nose due to nasal polyps or deformities
  • Head injury
  • Certain medications
  • Dental problems
  • Radiation therapy
  • Diseases of the nervous system
  • Alzheimer’s or other neurological problems
  • Sinus and upper respiratory infections

Age-Related Loss of Smell

If loss of smell is caused by a cold or allergies, the ability to smell usually comes back after the illness is gone. More serious conditions may require the help of a doctor.

People who lose the sense of smell gradually, with age, may have what is called presbyosmia. Just like age-related vision changes and hearing loss, presbyosmia is usually not preventable and usually has no cure.

If your condition is permanent, you may need to come up with ways to help keep yourself safe, such as:

  • Ask someone to smell your food for you to be sure it hasn’t spoiled
  • If you’re still not sure, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Install smoke and natural gas detectors throughout your home. There are talking detectors that detect smoke, carbon monoxide and natural gas, all in one unit.

If you experience a sudden loss of smell or if your loss of smell is getting worse, schedule an appointment to see your doctor.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Problems with Sense of Smell in the Elderly: AgingCare.com, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health

Loss of Smell (Anosmia) Mayo Clinic Staff

Medicare Made Clear: A resource to help keep you current on Medicare issues. MedicareMadeClear.com


1 Causes of Smell Disorders, NIHSeniorHealth.gov, December 2013

2 Smelling, MedLine Plus, A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, November 10, 2012


Y0066_150312_174247 Accepted