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Smell training helps parosmia recovery

Research demonstrates smell training is beneficial for patients with parosmia

One of the questions we often get asked is “Will smell training help my parosmia?” Research now suggests the answer is emphatically “yes”.

Parosmia is commonly experienced as part of the recovery process where smell has been lost as the result of a virus. Hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 patients will know all about this! Parosmia has been known about for decades, although research prior to the Covid-19 pandemic was extremely limited. 

Parosmia is the distortion of familiar smells that, for reasons still to be confirmed, cause a disgust response in patients. Parosmia is triggered in response to certain compounds of odour molecules that are commonly found across a wide range of foods; from coffee to garlic to roasting meat to broccoli. People living with parosmia recognise certain foods as ‘triggers’ and find them unpalatable at best and vomit-inducing at worst. Sometimes even odours as subtle as water, or the smell of a loved one, can be triggers. Parosmia will affect what you can eat, where you can go and even who you can be with.

Fortunately a pioneering group of researchers, with the involvement of Professor Thomas Hummel - a leader in this field - were already working on ways to manage the effects of parosmia before hundreds of thousands of new patients became aware of this debilitating condition. They applied the one technique demonstrated to support the recovery of smell: olfactory training, also known as smell training.

What they found was that people with parosmia who followed a regular routine of daily smell training for at least six months experienced recovery more quickly than those who didn’t smell train. They also found that patients who had parosmia were more likely to experience a meaningful return of their sense of smell, adding to the evidence that parosmia is a sign of recovery.

The message is smell training is effective in people with parosmia. Even though smells may be distorted or hardly detectable, the practice of smell training is exercising the olfactory pathways deep in your brain which are crucial to being able to enjoy an effective sense of smell. 

It's good to have another piece of the scientific jigsaw that improves our understanding of the treatment of smell disorders. 


The research paper referred to in this article is Parosmia is Associated with Relevant Olfactory Recovery After Olfactory TrainingDavid T. Liu, MD ; Maha Sabha; Michael Damm, MD; Carl Philpott, MD ; Anna Oleszkiewicz, PhD ; Antje Hähner, MD; Thomas Hummel, MD; DOI:10.1002/lary.29277.

November 17, 2021