Why Have I Lost My Ability to Taste or Smell?

Loss of taste is actually more common than you might think. Over 200,000 people visit a doctor each year for problems with their ability to taste or smell.

Our senses of taste and smell are closely related and interconnected, so it’s not unusual for both senses to be affected or to confuse the exact source of the problem. 

In many cases, people who see a physician for loss of taste are surprised to learn they are really experiencing a loss of smell, instead. In fact, most often people who experience a problem with taste, actually have a problem with smell, or a smell disorder rather than a taste disorder.   

Problems with your ability to taste can have a negative impact on your quality of life and potentially, point to a critical underlying health condition, so it can be important to seek treatment and understand the cause of the problem.

Causes of Taste Problems 

It’s most typical for taste disorders to develop as a result of an injury or illness. Some of the most common causes of taste problems are:

  • Upper respiratory and middle ear infections, colds, flu
  • Nose or sinus problems such as swollen sinuses, chronic sinusitis, allergies, nasal polyps that might be blocking your nose passages, or just plain old congestion 
  • Infection or inflammation in your mouth, dental problems, poor oral hygiene, or wisdom tooth extraction 
  • Side effect of medications, including some common antibiotics, blood pressure medicines and antihistamines) 
  • Head injury
  • Some surgeries to the ear, nose, and throat (like middle ear surgery) or wisdom tooth extraction
  • Cigarette smoking, exposure to chemicals, and certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies 

Treatment and What You Can Do

For a small number of people, the loss of taste or smell is permanent, but in many cases, the problem can be improved with treatment and people are likely to regain their sense of taste or smell.

With the most common causes of taste or smell problems, impaired sensory function typically resolves, either on its own or when the underlying cause is addressed.

Taste or smell issues due to chronic nasal problems, sinusitis, or polyps are frequently treatable, and the use of steroid nasal sprays and surgery have shown to be dramatically effective for these patients. 

In rare cases, a more serious health condition, such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease, can cause loss of smell and taste.

If you are having a problem with taste or smell, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a doctor in order to get to the root of the problem.  If left untreated, there may be potentially dangerous consequences to your health. 

Both taste and smell disorders are diagnosed by a otolaryngologist (a doctor of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck), often referred to as an ENT.  

Think you may have a taste or smell disorder? We’re here to help. Call our office to schedule your appointment. With successful treatment, you could be on your way to enjoying all of life’s smells and flavors again.