Impaired Taste or Smell - What does it mean?

Having an impaired sense of taste or smell doesn’t necessarily mean a complete loss of the sense, but rather a muting or alteration to the sense, including a metallic taste in the mouth or an ongoing smell of burning or ammonia.

An impaired smell is known as Hyposmia and loss of smel l as Anosmia . Similarly, an impaired sense of taste i s called Hypogeusia and loss of taste is Ageusia . Dysgeusia refers to the presence of an unpleasant or foul taste in the mouth.

As the sense of smell is an important contributing factor to taste, impaired smell frequently also manifests as impaired taste.

Diagnosing Impaired Taste and Smell

Most people can notice when one of their senses is muted or absent, but a doctor may want to diagnose the loss of smell or taste. This can be done in a variety of ways including scratch and sniff tests to determine what a patient can smell , or measuring the lowest strength of a chemical solution that a patient can taste.

Symptoms of Impaited Taste and Smell

Depending on the cause, impaired taste and smell may present in many different ways, including an inability to taste or smell, muted senses, the inability to taste certain categories (sweet, sour, bitter, salty), the presence of strange tastes or odour absent of cause , or previously pleasant tastes or smells becoming unpleasant. 

Causes of a Impaired Taste and Smell

There are numerous possible causes for impaired taste and smell , including:

  • Age - Many people over the age of 60 have reduced senses of taste and smell. It is a fairly common effect of aging.
  • Cold and Flu
  • COVID-19
  • Ear infections
  • Gum Disease, including gingivitis or periodontal disease
  • Head or Ear injuries
  • Medication, including cancer treatments, lithium, some anxiety and depression drugs thyroid medications
  • Salivary Gland Infections
  • Sinus Infections
  • Smoking
  • Strep Throat and Pharyngitis
  • Vitamin deficiency, especially B-12 and zinc


Self Care

Depending on the source of the impairment there are a number of home remedies that can help with impaired taste and smell.

  • Quitting smoking - ex smokers can usually see an improvement in taste and smell within a few days of quitting.
  • Dental hygiene - a proper dental hygiene regimen can eliminate plaque and help control gum disease.
  • Diet - a balanced diet can help elevate zinc and B-12 levels. Vegans may need to take B-12 supplements or eat fortified foods.
  • Cold and Flu medications

See a Doctor If:

  • Your impaired senses have no obvious cause
  • You lose taste or smell
  • You constantly smell ammonia
  • Impairment of taste or smell coincides with a head injury
  • You also feel fatigued
  • If you feel the impaired senses are the result of a new medication

If you have problems with your sense of taste and smell, the most convenient way is to book an appointment with a doctor online with MyHealth1st, where you can find and book an appointment with a doctor near you, 24/7.

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